Indonesia's $20B Lifesaver

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Indonesia went begging to the International Monetary Fund and walked away with a $20-billion Halloween treat today, as Wall Street looked to relegate Market Massacre '97 to nightmare status.

The package would be offered in concert with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and individual countries, including the U.S. government, which is committing about $3 billion in aid. The money, designed to help curtail the wild spread of currency crisis around the region, will be tightly controlled.

Indonesian Finance Minister Mar'ie Muhammad said the bailout would bring "firm and timely" action. "The government firmly believes that these policies and programs will be effective in restoring the health of the Indonesian economy so as to improve the welfare of the people and alleviate poverty," Mar'ie said.

The news was good enough to help break the follow-the-leader pattern of the world's stock markets today. Despite the Dow Industrial's 125-point slide on Wednesday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed a solid 260.92 points, to 10,623.78, today, or about 2.52%. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 94 points, to 16,458.94. Australia and New Zealand also were up. In Indonesia, the Jakarta Composite was down slightly as traders waited for details on the restrictions imposed by the aid package, including what the New York Times called "wide-ranging austerity measures."