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World markets plunge on U.S. fears

  • Story Highlights
  • Stock markets in Asia and Europe plummet Monday, some with record falls
  • Benchmark indicators in India, China, Japan, Hong Kong and Europe all drop sharply
  • Fall caused by skepticism about Bush plan to bolster U.S. economy with tax breaks
  • Investors feel U.S. stimulus plan is "too little, too late" says CNN's Todd Benjamin
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Stock markets around the world plummeted Monday, prompted by pessimism about U.S. President George W. Bush's plans to boost the U.S. economy.

From Paris to Mumbai to Tokyo, it was one of the worst days for stocks since the terror attacks of September 2001, as share prices in Asia, Europe and the Americas all plunged by significant amounts; Wall Street only avoided joining the tumble because U.S. markets were closed Monday for Martin Luther King Day.

Investors remain skeptical about Bush's plan and are worried that a U.S. slowdown will lead to a global recession.

If the United States slips into recession, Americans may buy fewer goods, especially those from overseas. That's why shares from Toyota in Tokyo to BMW in Frankfurt were down heavily.

Markets in Europe reacted with London's FTSE 100 Index down 5.5 percent at 5,578.20; the CAC-40 in Paris down 6.8 percent to 4,744.15; and Frankfurt's DAX dropping 7.2 percent to 6,790.19.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed on 13,325.954 points, a slide of 3.9 percent and its biggest dip in two years. Shanghai's Composite index fell 5.1 percent. Video Watch report on stock market chaos. »

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index suffered its largest percentage drop since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when it fell 5.5 percent to 23,818.86 points.

India's Sensex stock index fell nearly 1,353 points or 11 percent -- its second biggest percentage drop ever -- to 17,605.35 points before recovering to 7.4 percent.

Markets also dove across South America, where the United States is the largest trading partner for many economies. Brazil's Bovespa exchange, the continent's largest, closed down 6.6 percent, Argentina's Merval dropped 6.3 percent, Colombia's IGBC was down 7.7 percent and Peru's General Index was off 8.4 percent.

In North America, the Toronto stock exchange fell 4.75 percent, while Mexico City closed down 5.35 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average, which was not trading Monday, finished Friday 0.5 percent down at 12,099.30. It has now lost more than 8 percent of its value since the year began.

On Friday U.S. President George W. Bush announced an economic stimulus plan involving a $145 billion tax relief package.

"I think a lot of people had been hoping that when the new year started that we would find that the U.S. housing market's problems were largely isolated to that market," said Royal Bank of Scotland's Kit Jukes. "Every piece of news we've had since Christmas has argued against that position."

Traders now want to see how Wall Street reacts when it reopens Tuesday. "I think the expectation is the U.S. will open further down tomorrow," said analyst Howard Wheeldon of BGC Partners. "That is a big kick in the teeth for President George W. Bush."

Banks also fell hard as the lending policy during the boom time continues to concern analysts. Banks and insurance companies also own a lot of equities.

Commodity-led shares, like oil firms and mining companies, were also hit hard, after flying high for most of 2007. If the world economy falters consumers are likely to use less oil and buy fewer products like gold and copper.

CNN's Eunice Yoon said investors are wondering whether Bush's tax breaks will tackle weaknesses in the financial and housing sectors while also persuading people to get spending.

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"People out here in Asia rely very heavily on the consumer in the United States and that's one of the reasons why Toyota, which has about 54 percent of its business in the United States, saw its share price tank this morning," she said.

By only the 14th trading day of 2008, shares in Europe's main markets are now down between 12 to 15 percent on the year. During the market gyrations of 2007, sharp falls were often followed by sharp rises. There is no evidence of that yet in 2008. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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