WHY THE ASIAN CRASH MATTERS TO YOU

Southeast Asia's troubles may seem safely distant to armchair investors half a world away. After all, economies and markets there historically have had low correlation with those in the U.S., meaning that if theirs tumbles, ours doesn't necessarily follow. Take Japan. Its stock market has been in decline most of the past eight years, a period in which U.S. stocks have risen 240%. Since August, the U.S. market has seemed equally impervious to the pain of 20% to 40% market plunges in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and finally Hong Kong.

But last week something gave. Led by Hong Kong, stocks...

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