HONG KONG -- Asian stock markets followed Wall Street over a cliff Friday, plunging from Seoul to Singapore after an overnight sell-off in New York.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index plummeted more than 10.5% in morning trading. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost more than 7%, Seoul's Kospi index nearly 8%, Singapore's Straits Times index more than 6.5%.
"There's too much uncertainty in the market," said Sherman Chan, economist with Moodys Economy.com in Sydney. "Confidence is really weak."
The Asian markets took their lead from Wall Street, where to Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 7.3% Thursday to close below 9,000 for the first time in five years. The Dow has now dropped 2,271 points in the last seven trading days — its worst 7-day performance ever.
Stocks are in freefall despite a coordinated effort by central banks around the world to cut interest rates this week and flood markets with liquidity. "People have been speculating for weeks about a coordinated rate cut," Moodys Chan said. "Finally it comes, but too late."
The good news, Chan says: The rate cuts show that central bankers are finally committed to jump-starting stalled economies, instead of tightening credit to fight inflation. But panicked investors are looking for bold movies from policymakers in Europe and the United States, where the crisis began with a meltdown in the U.S. housing market, she said.
"It all goes back to the U.S. and Europe," Chan said. "If they slow, the rest of Asia will suffer... More needs to be done to kick-start the recovery process. We expect more turbulence."
Contributing: wire reports