Global Markets Soar on News of Possible U.S. Rescue Plan

Global stock markets soared Friday after a punishing week as news of a possible U.S. government plan to rescue banks from toxic mortgage debt brought hope of a letup in the world's worst financial crisis in decades.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index surged a stunning 9.6 percent to 19,327.73, while Japan's Nikkei 225 average rose 3.8 percent.

As trading opened in Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 jumped 7 percent to 5,223.60 and France's CAC 40 shot up 5.9 percent.

Wrapping up one of the most turbulent weeks in memory, Asian and European markets surged after an overnight rally on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average advanced 410.03 points, or 3.86 percent, to 11,019.69 — the biggest percent gain since October 2002.

Investors also took heart from word that the U.S. government was seeking the power to rescue banks by buying distressed assets at the heart of the financial system turmoil that's brought down Wall Street giants Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns. Fears of a global financial meltdown had sent markets plunging earlier this week.

Details of the plan were still being worked out, but U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson emerged from a nighttime meeting on Capitol Hill to say he hoped to have a solution "aimed right at the heart of this problem."

"It definitely gives investors a light at the end of the tunnel," said Daniel McCormack, a strategist for Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong. "The solution is of such a magnitude that it could eventually fix the problems ... That's hugely important at the moment because that's what markets are focused on."

The biggest bonus of a potential government fix is it could help the banking industry as a whole, said Scott Fullman, director of derivative investment strategy for New York-based institutional broker WJB Capital Group. Until now, the U.S. government has selectively bailed out institutions that were the most vulnerable.

The news triggered a rally in U.S. stock futures, suggesting Wall Street would advance Friday, too. Dow futures rose 245 points, or 2.2 percent, to 11,227, and S&P 500 futures climbed 39 points, or 3.2 percent, to 1,242.

"Bear markets are extremely sensitive, and this market on a scale of one to 10 is a 13," Fullman said. "I don't say any prudent money manager would say we're out of the woods, but right in this moment it all seems positive and leading toward an upward move for the market going into Friday session."

The dollar also rose, advancing to 107.42 yen, while the euro fell to $1.4211.

In China, the Shanghai benchmark jumped 9.5 percent — its biggest gain ever — after the government eliminated a tax on share purchases and said it was buying shares in state-owned banks.

Bank of China, the country's second-largest lender, surged 10 percent , the daily maximum limit. China Construction Bank also had gained 10 percent.

In Russia, the two main stock exchanges opened, then closed, then opened again amid wild price swings. MICEX, where most share trading takes place, was up 23.1 percent on the day, while the RTS rose 15.5 percent.

Asian markets, meanwhile, were helped by the Bank of Japan, which pumped another $18.7 bilion into money markets, its seventh injection this week. The move followed Thursday's coordinated effort by central banks around the world to keep the financial system liquid.

Word of a possible U.S. bailout lifted Asian banks, which had tumbled earlier this week.

Macquarie Group Ltd., Australia's biggest investment bank and securities firm, exploded almost 38 percent percent.

Shares of China's biggest lender, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd, or ICBC, rose 16.2 percent in Hong Kong and 9.9 percent in Shanghai.

Japanese megabanks were up strongly, with the country's leading bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., up 10.5 percent and Mizuho Financial Group adding 12.6 percent.

Oil prices rose in Asia. Light, sweet crude for October delivery gained $1.63 to $99.51 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.