IMF annual meeting in question as bond trade resumes

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The Independent Online

The global capitalist system struggled to convince the wider world it was still functioning yesterday as the US stock market stayed shut and speculation grew that several high-profile events would be cancelled.

The US Treasury was holding talks with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank yesterday over plans to hold annual meetings in Washington later this month. A decision is expected today.

A senior World Bank spokeswoman said: "There are concerns that the meetings would put too great a strain on the security and police services at a time when they are faced with this terrible tragedy and threat to national security."

Meanwhile, money poured into US government bonds as the Treasuries market reopened and investors sought a safe haven for their cash. Trading also resumed in Chicago's future and options exchanges. Stock trading is set to restart on Wall Street on Monday.

Prices surged, pushing the yield on the two-year bond to its lowest levels since 1958, the year of the Berlin crisis between the US and the Soviet Union.

In London, the FTSE 100 enjoyed a second successive rally, closing up 61 points, putting together a two-day rise of 200 points after Tuesday's 288-point fall.

A decision to cancel the IMF meetings, which coincide with the gathering of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven (G7) nations, could provoke accusations of caving in to terrorism.

Two G7 members, Germany and Italy, appealed yesterday for the meetings to be put off. "It is virtually ruled out that the meetings will take place as planned," said a German finance ministry spokesman.

Vito Tanzi, a junior Italian economics minister, said they should be delayed out of respect for the victims.

A UK Treasury spokesman said the issue was "finely balanced". "We don't want to send a signal to terrorists that they can disrupt the normal business of international meetings."

There was also doubt whether the World Trade Organisation would hold its long-awaited talks in the Gulf state of Qatar on a new trade agreement.

The WTO said it was still planning the ministerial meeting on 9 to 13 November.

Christopher Roberts, who was the head of trade policy at the Department of Trade and Industry for 10 years up to 1997, said the meetings should go ahead as planned.

Mr Roberts, who is now a trade analyst at the law firm Covington & Burling, said: "My own view is that, subject to proper security precautions, we should not allow terrorism to disrupt the talks or indeed other events of importance round the world."

The attacks and the subsequent travel restrictions have led a number of more low-level events to be cancelled.

Rupert Murdoch, the media tycoon, and John Malone, head of Liberty Media, both pulled out of a live Royal Television Society debate due to have taken place later today in Cambridge.

RTL, the television broadcaster, has postponed its financial results, an IMF briefing in London has been cancelled and Leeds United delayed its financial results.

Meanwhile, central bank governors and finance ministers continued to act to convince the markets that a financial crisis would be averted.

The UK Treasury's spokesman said: "We are much more reassured about the London financial markets. We think the key decisions have been taken."

Hopes of a coordinated move to cut interest rates faded after the European Central Bank decided to keep rates on hold at its scheduled meeting yesterday.

However, analysts saidthe US Federal Reserve Board could still order an unscheduled cut and they expected the Bank of England would join in.

Sir Edward George, the Bank's Governor, said monetary authorities around the world are cooperating to minimise damage and are watching for any lasting effects.