Markets Plunge on WorldCom Scandal

Asian shares plunged Wednesday on fears the accounting scandal at U.S. telecom giant WorldCom Inc. could cause widespread financial troubles.

Tokyo's benchmark 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average plunged 422.11 points, or 4.02 percent, to 10,074.56. On Tuesday, the average gained 25.35 points, or 0.24 percent.

The Nikkei took a double blow from the Japanese yen's rise and worries that WorldCom's unfolding crisis would deal a massive blow to U.S. stocks.

WorldCom, America's No. 2 long-distance carrier, disclosed after Wall Street had finished on Tuesday that it had wrongly reported U.S. dlrs 3.8 billion in expenses.

Asian traders figured Wall Street will head straight down when it opened on Wednesday.

Investors also thought a stronger yen will hurt Japanese exporters by making their products more expensive in foreign markets, which could harm a potential export-led recovery.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar bought 120.32 yen in late trading, down 1.34 yen from late Tuesday and also below its late New York level of 121.40 yen Tuesday.

The U.S. currency was trading at a four-month low of 120.50 yen around midday when Japan's Finance Ministry intervened for the second time this week to try to halt the yen's surge. But the effect was minimal and the yen continued to rise.

In Hong Kong, shares plunged 2.4 percent to their lowest level of the year on worries about the WorldCom scandal.

The Hang Seng Index fell 253.06 points, or 2.39 percent, to 10,355.92. On Tuesday, the index slipped 48.36 points, or 0.45 percent.

The Hang Seng's previous low of the year was 10,409.68 on Feb. 7.


BANGKOK: Thai stocks ended down 4.4 percent on panic selling sparked by WorldCom's scandal. The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index closed 17.32 points lower at 381.21.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian shares closed lower on Wall Street recent weakness and continuing domestic political concerns. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange Composite Index of 100 blue chips was down 1.7 percent, or 12.17 points, at 705.04.

SINGAPORE: Shares closed lower. The Straits Times Index fell 2.15 percent, or 33.65 points, to 1,532.15.

TAIPEI: Taiwanese shares plunged to a new low for the year as investors dumped stocks on a decline by U.S. stocks. The benchmark Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange was down 193 points, or 3.6 percent, at 5,123.04.

WELLINGTON: New Zealand shares closed lower for the sixth consecutive session. The NZSE-40 Capital Index fell 34.35 points, or 1.9 percent, to 2,063.98.

MANILA: Philippine shares ended on a six-month low on heavy selling by foreign investors. The 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange Index fell 33.40 points, or 2.8 percent, to 1,164.49.

SYDNEY: The Australian share market fell as investors feared that Wall Street will plunge on the WorldCom affair. The All Ordinaries Index fell 46.90 points, or 1.48 percent, to 3,129.70.

SEOUL: South Korean shares closed sharply lower, recording their largest percentage drop since Sept. 11, on worries over Micron Technology's poor results and WorldCom. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, fell 7.15 percent, or 54.05 points, to 701.87.

JAKARTA: Indonesian shares ended sharply lower on growing concerns the WorldCom case will push U.S. prices lower. The JSX Composite Index was down 2.6 percent, or 13.459 points, at 503.500.