Asia's Twister: Lulled Or Lapsed?
BOSTON — Two men, an unlikely partnership, and a plan have sapped much of the wind from an Asian financial tornado that was headed straight for investors' pocketbooks.
Robert Rubin, US treasury secretary, and Ryutaro Hashimoto, the now voter-bashed Prime Minister of Japan, converged on the same problem - fixing, or patching, the economic problems threatening to twist apart Japan's economy.
The stakes were high. Japan, in the words of one analyst, "holds the key to economic growth for the rest of world."
It was a distinctly one-sided partnership. Mr. Rubin pledged US Treasury dollars to try to pull the Japanese yen out of its freefall.
And he strong-armed Mr. Hashimoto's government into making a fix of its own - announcing a tax cut to stimulate the domestic economy and a $94 billion bailout plan for a banking system bent on imploding.
Such reforms have been both promised and deferred for seven years, and critics term the efforts "too little, too late." The tax cut, for example, is still just an announcement with no details.
But the moves were enough to fire up stock markets worldwide. European markets pushed to new records in the three weeks since Rubin pledged to support the yen.
And Wall Street dumped a slump that had pulled the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 7 percent. Major market averages - the Nasdaq and S&P 500 - have hit record highs, with the Dow close on their heels. Analysts have pronounced a summer rally in full bloom.
But has Asia's tornado abated, or is this just the eye of the storm?
Japan may have been shored up, but Western analysts say its economy needs a new foundation. And the Asian tiger economies remain caged by weak currencies and slumping markets.
Keep reading for a more detailed outlook.