Another Red-Ink October?

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NEW YORK: So much for Alan Greenspan. Global markets slumped Thursday, as traders in Asia and Europe spent a second day following Wall Street's lead in reacting gloomily to the Fed's quarter-percent interest rate cut. As ever, the effect was amplified the further west it went -- so while the Dow dropped a mere 2.94 percent, the Nikkei average has now hit lows not seen since 1986. Tokyo wasn't helped by the Bank of Japan's quarterly tankan survey of business sentiment, which showed cutbacks at companies across the board. Throw in fears of poor fourth-quarter corporate earnings and further hedge fund collapses back in the U.S., and it all adds up to a gloomy start for what may be another black October on Wall Street.

Since Japan seems unable to pull itself and the rest of Asia out of recession, the market will be looking to the IMF-World Bank meeting in New York Thursday for answers. But the Monetary Fund's cupboard is increasingly bare, and finance ministers and central bank governors have other priorities: assembling a multibillion-dollar rescue package for Brazil and trying to pressure Russia not to print more rubles. Performing those miracles must come first; the impossible Asian rescue will take a little longer.