European, Asian markets plunge on crisis fears

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LONDON - Asian and European stock markets plunged Monday as government bank bailouts in the U.S. and Europe failed to alleviate fears that the global financial crisis would depress world economic growth.

Investors took scant comfort from Washington's passage of a US$700 billion plan to buy bad assets from banks and other institutions to shore up the financial industry on Friday because of the uncertainty still hanging over the details of the deal and the degree to which it will help.

Britain's benchmark stock index, the FTSE 100, lost 220.11 to 4,760.14 - a 4.42 percent fall. The declines were led by the banking industry, with the mining and oil industries also suffering drops. HBOS PLC's share price dropped 15.7 percent, while the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC fell 13.6 percent.

Germany's DAX index fell 4.22 percent to 5,552.27. France's CAC-40 index dropped 4.85 percent to 3,882.81. In Russia, the RTS stock index tumbled more than 7 percent in first 20 minutes of trading.

Over the weekend, many European governments moved to save troubled banks, and made more promises to protect depositors from the credit crisis.

Germany on Sunday agreed a 50 billion euros (US$68 billion) package to bail out Hypo Real Estate, the country's second-biggest commercial property lender, after a rescue plan by private lenders fell apart.

France's BNP Paribas SA committed to taking a 75-percent stake in troubled European bank Fortis N, and Sweden and Denmark followed Ireland and Britain in raising the amount of savers' deposits guaranteed by the government.

Britain's treasury chief Alistair Darling said he was "ready to do whatever it takes" to get the country through the credit crunch, and was looking at a "range of proposals."

But analysts said that, like the U.S. plan, the lack of detail in many of Europe's moves failed to restore investors' confidence, resulting in the stock market tumbles. "What the markets need are some more details about exactly when and how these plans are going to come in," said Richard Hunter, head of British equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, "And they need some proof that some of these measures are taking hold."

Across Asia, all markets were also in the red. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index fell to its lowest level in 4 1/2 years, sinking 4.25 percent to 10,473.09.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slid 5 percent to 16,803.76. Markets in mainland China, Australia, South Korea, India, Singapore and Thailand also fell sharply. Indonesia's key index plummeted 10 percent, it's biggest one-day drop ever.

In Russia, the RTS stock index tumbled more than 7 percent in first 20 minutes of trading.

(Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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