At midday in London, the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 was down nearly 100 points, having hovered in that territory since the opening bell. In France and Germany and across the continent, European stocks were down on average around 1 or 2 percent. This raised early fears in the United States, where the Federal Reserve Board is scheduled to meet later in the day. S&P Futures, a frequent indicator of U.S. market performance, were down more than 10 points Wednesday morning.
As it has in the past, Europe's anxiety stemmed from the ongoing crisis in Asia. In Japan, concerns about a weakening yen pulled the Nikkei 225 down 433.06 points, or 2.73 percent. Worries about interest rates in Hong Kong caused the Hang Seng to fall 396.22 points, a loss of nearly 4 percent on the day. Solid declines were also recorded in Taiwan, China, Pakistan and New Zealand. Only Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand showed modest gains averaging about 1.5 points.