Asian Markets Tumble and It Looks Ugly Again

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It doesn't look pretty.

Alan Greenspan's

calming hand failed to extend beyond our fair shores. The world's stock markets have been hit by another bout of selling. Given Wall Street's recently acquired habit of looking at the world's navel rather than its own, the market is cued to go lower this morning.

Continued worries about Brazilian credit ratings are socking the bank stocks, and some key downgrades in tech are adding to the overall weakness of stocks.

Things look nasty and volatile. The

S&P 500

futures have been all over the map (at 9:00 a.m., they're down 15 -- limit down). It looks like another crazy day.

Which is lovely if you're an options player and have managed to throw on some straddles over the S&P 500, but disconcerting for more genteel folk.

Nervous investors should calm down, says Jeffrey Applegate,

Lehmann Brothers

bullish chief market strategist, who has been doing a bit of handholding over the last week.

"When you get a market price break like this," he explains, "You're going to retest the lows." He doesn't think that the market will dip to Monday's levels.

Applegate says that the market's fundamentals remain strong, Asia's affect on U.S. earnings is minimal, and that the current earnings season, when it is through, will be up 10%. The market may be choppy, but he thinks investors should stay the course. And maybe take some Dramamine.

Will people be stepping in to buy when the market goes lower? After all, everybody who missed out on Tuesday's rapid bottom might have itchy trigger fingers. But Mike Driscoll, block trader at

Hambrecht & Quist

doesn't think we'll see that kind of bottom forming today.

"I don't think people have the

cojones they say they have to buy on dips," he contends. "Who wants to catch the proverbial falling knife?"

Again, it was Hong Kong that led the global drop. A

Moody's

downgrade of the island's banks to negative from neutral was enough to send the still-groggy market reeling again. Lowering the gloom still further, the S&P 500 futures touched limit-down in

Globex

trading before taking back some of those losses. Down as much as 7.8%, the

Hang Seng

managed to recover in late trading, closing the day down 402.44, or 3.7%, at 10,362.86.

Japanese stocks, too, fell, as Tokyo traders worried that the Asia's problems would hurt Japanese companies already dolorous profits. Banks and global blue-chips that make big ticket items -- the

Sonys

and

Toyotas

of the world -- saw some of the worst losses. The

Nikkei

fell 492.10 to close at 16,364.94.

London stocks are lower, though they've come off their lows.

"This morning looks pretty red," says Richard Kersley,

BZW's

equity strategist in London. "The falls overnight serve to remind people that we're not out of the woods on this yet. The the more material consideration is what are the Asian economies going to throw back at us. That's difficult to quantify."

The

FTSE

is off 134.50 at 4737.30.

Once again, the stock market's bad news is the Treasury market's good news. Helped by some more Asian buying overnight, the 30-year Treasury bond is up 19/32 at 102 28/32, dropping the yield to 6.16%.

Waste Management

(WMX)

CEO Ronald LeMay, who joined the company in July, has quit. LeMay's resignation casts the effectiveness of the company's restructuring efforts into doubt.

WorldCom

(WCOM)

reported third-quarter earnings of 12 cents per share, a penny ahead of

First Call

consensus estimates.

Boston Chicken

(BOST)

looks like it will get taken out to the woodshed today. The company reported third-quarter earnings of 16 cents per share, four cents shy of estimates.

Alex. Brown

downgraded both

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

Compaq

(CPQ)

to buy from strong buy.

Salomon Brothers

is on the other side of this one, according to sources, telling clients to step in and buy.

UBS

lowered its rating on

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

to hold.