Business & Finance

Fears of a worldwide recession swept through Asian markets with almost every stock index falling in the aftermath of terrorist attacks that shut down the US's financial heart:

• Japan's Nikkei index tumbled below the key 10000 mark for the first time in 17 years, closing down 682.85 at 9610.10. (Story, page 6.)

• Hong Kong's Hang Seng plunged to its lowest level in 2-1/2 years, 9493.62.

• Singapore's Straits Times Index fell to 1450.45, a 29-month low.

• South Korea's Kospi endured its worst finish in almost three years, diving 12 percent, to 475.60.

• Markets in Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand were closed Wednesday.

Key bourses in Europe suspended trading in US shares both out of respect and because there was no guidance on prices due to the closure of the New York, Nasdaq, and American exchanges. The Bank of England and European Central Bank both said they'd inject extra liquidity as necessary to support regional banks and markets.

The cost of the terrorist attacks in the US could run to $15 billion, insurance experts told the Financial Times. Reinsurance giants Munich Re and Swiss Re estimated their liability alone may run to $903 million and $730 million, respectively, but added that their solidity "is not shaken" by the attacks. Reinsurers provide coverage for insurance companies.

Financially troubled Ansett Airlines was placed in voluntary receivership by its parent company after chief rival Qantas pulled out of negotiations to buy it. But analysts said Qantas might well pick up parts of Ansett if the latter is ultimately liquidated by Air New Zealand. Ansett, which has an aging fleet and massive debt, is losing a reported $676,000 a day. The carrier employs 16,000 people.

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