THE STOCKMARKET closed sharply lower amid growing fears of a US interest rate hike next week. A robust set of economic data in the States caused an opening loss in the Dow as investors fretted over a rise in interest rates. The Wall Street jitters fed through to London where an afternoon sell-off left the FTSE 100 156.2 lower at 6,300.4. At its worst, the blue-chip index plunged 195.2. The second-liners were also hit, with the midcap closing 51.6 down at 5763.6 and the Small Cap 6.9 off at 2581.1.
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THE DOW JONES Industrial Average fell 1.7 per cent to 10,915.04 after a government report showed consumer prices soared in April at the fastest rate for nine years and fuelled concerns over rising interest rates. The Standard & Poor's 500 was down 25.90 at 1,341.66. JP Morgan lost $57/16 at $1415/16. IBM was down $51/6 at $2407/16 and American Express lost $41/2 at $1201/4.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 34.55 at 2,547.45 and the Nasdaq 100 fell 31.77 at 2,147.31.
THE NIKKEI 225 benchmark index fell 0.2 per cent to 16,810.39 amid fears that results from more than 100 companies reporting yesterday would show a major downturn in the 1998 fiscal year.
Honda fell 80 yen to 5,220. Fuji Photo fell 100 yen to 4,300.
Drug companies bucked the trend, with Sankyo adding 75 yen to 2,600 following a marketing agreement with Nissan Chemical Industries.
Takedo Chemical Industries gained 120 yen at 5,750 on optimism it has a drug which combats HIV.
THE HANG SENG INDEX fell 1.5 per cent to 12,855.52, led by CLP Holdings after it said it would not pay a special dividend and profits had fallen one-third.
Pacific Concord Holdings fell 25 per cent to HK$1.03 after annual profits fell 62 per cent to HK$303m.
IT stocks rose on the back hopes for the government's proposed $1.8bn technology park. Circuit board maker Wong's International gained 31 per cent at HK$2.375 and said it knew of no reason for the surge.
THE BLUE-CHIP Xetra Dax fell 1.25 per cent to 5,183.49, reopening after Wednesday's Ascension day holiday. The decline in US and European bond prices following latest US inflation data sent HypoVereinsbank down 4.2 euros, or 6.77 per cent, to 57.8 euros. Dresdner Bank fell 2.1 per cent, to 37.87 euros on continued concerns over its possible DM5.4bn ($3bn) Holocaust compensation payments. MobilCom, Germany's second-largest long- distance phone company, gained 7 per cent at 75 euros after it split its shares.Reuse content