The stockmarket fell just over 2% this morning, on top of yesterday’s 1.7% fall; the Australian dollar shed more than 3 US cents in less than a day, and the Reserve Bank again flooded the financial system with lots of cash to try and maintain liquidity and prevent short term interest rates from blowing out, as they did briefly in the US overnight.

It was joined by central banks in Asia this morning in Japan, China and South Korea which moved to boost liquidity or cut interest rates.

Our two day fall of roughly 3.8% is less than the 4.4%-4.7% fall on Wall Street. Similar sized falls in Europe and Asia could be explained by the fact that we were the first major market open in Asia yesterday. We absorbed a lot of the early panic among local investors.

But the big worry remains the fate of the huge American Insurance Group. Talks in New York after hours have apparently ended without any statement on whether a huge line of credit or short term loans totalling $US70 billion or more would be extended to the struggling insurer. The talks were called by the Fed, which had baulked at providing a direct loan. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan were involved in discussions about the loans.

That lifeline was made really necessary when Standard and Poor’s slashed AIG’s credit rating three notches to A minus from double A minus. That will concentrate minds tonight as it could be a very costly and threatening downgrade. S&P has left AIG on its creditwatch outlook and warned a further cut. AIG needs the highest possible rating for many of its credit insurance and other products.

If a cash lifeline, on to of the $US20 billion allowed by New York State insurance regulators (AIG will be able to draw on the $US20 billion in capital in its insurance subsidiaries) is agreed to quickly, the company may be spared whopping great losses on these products: if not, no one knows at this point.

In Australia, the RBA, after injecting a gross $2.1 billion extra on Monday to meet a system deficit of $828 million, again maintained system liquidity at yesterday’s increased level by injecting almost $1.850 billion in a series of repurchase deals involving various securities (including $150 million of residential mortgage backed securities) to meet a system deficit of $564 million. The deals were done for between three and 56 days.

That was after the Exchange Settlement Account (and where the authorised banks leave money overnight) jumped to more than $2.6 billion, from Friday’s $1.5 billion.

This morning’s liquidity injection followed the US Federal Reserve being forced to inject a total of $US70 billion, in two separate tranches, to drive down a spike in cash rates to 6% from the Fed’s main indicator rate of 2%, and around $US50 billion injected by the European Central bank and the Bank of England overnight in short term auctions designed to prevent a liquidity squeeze.

While the Fed’s injections were the largest since September 11, the moves by the RBA, the ECB and the UK central bank were much smaller than the liquidity boosting moves from August last year through to March of this year.

This morning the Bank of Japan added $US14.4 billion to the Japanese money markets, the Bank of China last night cut short term interest rates by 0.27% to 7.20%, the first cut in six years. This morning the South Koran central bank was reportedly offering cash through its discount window.

The release of the RBA’s September board meetings this morning didn’t add much to the sum total of knowledge that wasn’t outlined in the statement after the meeting, or in Governor Stephens subsequent appearance before the House of Reps Economics Committee.

Gold and copper fell, oil traded well under $US93 a barrel, to be over $US57 down on its high in July and the Aussie dollar traded around 70.30 US cents, down sharply from its 81.69 close late yesterday and 82.57 USA cents at 4 pm Monday. That 3 US cent fall came as the US dollar continued to firm as investors sought the security of US bonds markets.

Our market was off just over 110 points, compared to a sharper fall at the opening with it was down well over 130 points or 2.7%. That took the two day fall to around 3.9%, still less than the 4.4% fall in the Dow and the 4.69% drop in the S&P 500.

Asian markets were again weaker as traders in Japan joined in after yesterday’s well-timed holiday. Japanese markets were down nearly 5% in early trading, mirroring Wall Street’s 4.7% fall on the S&P 500. The South Korean market was off over 5% in the first hour or so of trading today.

The Commonwealth Bank revealed its exposure to Lehman Brothers is less than $150 million, the ANZ and National Australia Bank also count among unsecured creditors of Lehman Brothers Holdings: Bloomberg claimed the ANZ made bank loans of $44 million and $25 million to Lehman, according to Lehman’s New York bankruptcy filing, cited by the newswire.

NAB’s New York branch granted the investment bank a $10.3 million letter of credit.

That’s all piddling. Lehman’s total debts are estimated at $US613 billion, including more than $US130 billion in securities with other US banks as part of trading operations.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW