US ATTACK: Asian markets fall sharply in early trading

Stock markets across Asia fell sharply in the opening minutes of trading Wednesday in the wake of several apparent major terrorist attacks in the U.S. After U.S. bourses stayed closed all day Tuesday, Asia provided the first major reaction to the incidents from the world financial markets.

In Tokyo, where the start of trading was delayed by 30 minutes until 9:30 a.m. local time (0030 GMT), the attacks pushed the Nikkei 225 index below the 10,000 point for the first time in 17 years. At 10 a.m. the market average was down 685 points, or 6.7 percent, at 9,607 points.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange cut by half the maximum daily trading range of stocks and suspended trading on the foreign section, which includes companies such as IBM, Motorola, Apple Computer, Alcatel SA, British Telecommunications Plc and Deutsche Telekom AG, was suspended for the day in response to the closure of the U.S. markets.

The Australian Stock Exchange dropped at the opening and was down 125 points, or 3.9 percent, at 3,058 points at 01:00 GMT. The telecommunication index was down around 5 percent.

The New Zealand market was also down sharply, although by lunch time had come off its lows for the session. At 00:30 GMT the main market index was off 4.5 percent at 1,877 points.

Trading on some other markets, including Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia has been suspended for the day, according to wire reports, and U.S. markets will remain closed on Wednesday.

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