8 Nov 2008

Markets slide again over recession fears

4:58 pm on 8 November 2008

Barack Obama's victory in the US Presidential elections has not prevented stock markets around the world plunging as fears of a deep recession mount.

Markets in Asia and the Pacific fell on Friday following a slide on Wall Street, as the International Monetary Fund warned that developed economies would shrink next year.

No industry was considered a safe bet yet and investors have found few consistent havens except for the yen and some government bonds, with the financial crisis expected to advanced economies headed for the first full-year contraction since World War II.

The IMF called for government spending to battle the financial crisis, but markets also took fright at an unprecedented British interest rate cut of 1.5 percentage points and a slew of gloomy profit forecasts.

Japan's Nikkei share average pared losses to end down 3.6%, after dropping as much as 7%. Toyota Motor Corp shares fell 9.2% after the world's top car maker cut in half its net profit forecast for 2008 due to dwindling demand.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside of Japan slipped 0.4%, a small victory after falling nearly 3% earlier.

South Korean stocks also fought back from early losses, climbing 3.9%, after the central bank rate cut boosted bank stocks and exporter shares rose. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was barely changed in volatile trade.

The Australian share market closed more than 2% down, while the New Zealand index had fallen 1.7% by the close of trade on Friday.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones plummeted 443.2 points, or 4.9%, nearly matching Wednesday's 486-point slide. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 closed down 5.7%, Frankfurt's Dax dropped 6.8% and the Cac 40 in Paris fell 6.4%.

The drops came despite cuts in interest rates by many central banks, in an attempt to boost consumer spending and business activity and avoid a prolonged slowdown.

In a shock move, British interest rates were cut 1.5 percentage points on Thursday, taking them to 3% - the lowest level since 1955. The European Central Bank cut its key rate by half a percentage point to 3.25%.

South Korea's central bank has cut its interest rate to 4%, the third cut in a month.

The IMF has welcomed rate cuts, but said more needed to be done.

Similar move by NZ central bank 'unlikely'

A New Zealand economist says the Reserve Bank is unlikely to be directly influenced by the Bank of England's move when it takes its next interest rates decision.

BNZ economist Mark Walton says Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard has not shown any sign of being led by the example of other central banks during the credit crisis.

Mr Walton says the Reserve Bank is on track to cut the Official Cash Rate by between half and three-quarters of a percentage point at its next review on 4 December.

Investors, who expected a cut of 50 basis points, called the Bank of England's move astonishing and spectacular.