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Stocks head for sharply lower open as yen surges

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[October 27, 2008]  NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks headed for yet another sharply lower open Monday as stock markets tumbled further around the world on worries about the health of the global economy.

InsuranceA surge in the yen illustrated investors' nervousness about how much economic activity could slow. Japan's Nikkei 225 index dropped to its lowest close in 26 years as investors unwound transactions in which they had invested yen in higher-yielding dollar assets. When other currencies decline against the yen, investors tend to exit these positions. The currency moved to the 92 yen level, a 13-year high against the dollar.

The Nikkei fell 6.4 percent to its lowest level since October 1982, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index tumbled 12.7 percent, its lowest finish in more than four years and its biggest single-session drop since 1991.

The sell-off came even as the seven leading industrial nations on Sunday issued a statement warning about the "recent excessive volatility" in the value of the yen.

Selling spread to Europe when markets opened there. In morning trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 4.3 percent, Germany's DAX index lost 3.20 percent, and France's CAC-40 declined 5.83 percent.

The global sell-off comes a day ahead of the start of a two-day meeting of the Federal Reserve and is prompting speculation that the world's major central banks could announce coordinated rate cuts. The Fed had already been expected to lower its fed funds rate by a half-point to 1 percent on Wednesday.

The ongoing selling is due in part to the belief that a worldwide recession is likely inevitable, but it's also being triggered by hedge funds and other investors unloading stock because they're being hit by margin calls. In a margin call, a broker who lent money to an investor calls in the loan, forcing the investor to sell stock to repay the loan.

Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 227, or 2.75 percent, to 8,034. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures fell 30.90, or 3.57 percent, to 835.10, while Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 40.50, or 3.4 percent, to 1,151.00. On Friday, stocks ended lower, but not at their worst levels. The Dow fell 3.59 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3.45 percent, while Nasdaq declined 3.23 percent.

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Investors also sought the safety of some types of government debt Monday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.62 percent from 3.72 percent late Friday. The dollar was higher against most other major currencies, except the yen, while gold prices rose.

The yield on the three-month bill, regarded as the safest asset around, rose to 0.86 percent from 0.82 percent late Thursday.

Investors around the world seemed largely unimpressed by government efforts to help lift market sentiment. South Korea's central bank cut its key interest rate Monday by three-quarters of a percentage point, its largest-ever reduction. The country's stock market benchmark Kospi ended with a 0.8 percent gain.

Elsewhere, central banks in Australia and Hong Kong added funds to their markets to boost liquidity.


On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com/

Nasdaq Stock Market: http://www.nasdaq.com/

[Associated Press; By TIM PARADIS]

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



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