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DFM shares plummet amid Asian market 'mayhem'

By Ben Flanagan and agencies



Dubai shares plummeted by more than six per cent this morning as Gulf stocks continued to feel the pinch of the global market meltdown.

The Dubai Financial Market index stood at 5,210.58 at close of trading, down 6.21 per cent, in what marked a second day of massive losses.  Earlier, the index was down by more than 9 per cent, before making a slight recovery.

Stocks that have rallied on foreign investment suffered some of the biggest losses; Emaar Properties, for example, had lost 6.15 per cent of its share value by close of trading.

There were widespread losses across the Gulf region, as investors spooked by a global equity rout drove the region's biggest selloff since a crash in early 2006. 
The Abu Dhabi Securities Market index was down by 6.83 per cent, Oman's main index took an 8.3 per cent hit, and Qatar closed down 7.76 per cent.

"This is almost mayhem," said Shakeel Sarwar, head of asset management at Bahrain-based SICO investment bank.  "We didn't even see this in the crash of 2006."

Asian stock markets took a battering as well, with key markets shedding up to eight per cent in a nervous sell-off sparked by fears that a US recession will hurt economies around the world.

In India, steep plunges in share values saw the markets close for nearly an hour. The benchmark index of the Bombay Stock Exchange was down 7.7 per cent minutes after the market reopened.

Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram urged investors to remain calm, telling reporters ‘there is no reason at all to allow the worries of the Western world to overwhelm us.’

Hong Kong had lost more than eight per cent by lunch, Australia closed down 7.1 per cent, Tokyo finished down 5.6 per cent, Seoul shed 4.4 per cent and other bourses echoed those dismal results.

"That's it - buyers have been defeated," said Andrew Clarke, a trader with SG Securities in Hong Kong. "They have finally run out of money."

The losses came just a day after Europe's key stock exchanges suffered their biggest one-day drops since the September 11 attacks on the United States, and dealers said there was no indication the blood-letting would ease up soon.