- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2008

WASHINGTON — News that the Bush administration is considering taking part ownership in a number of U.S. banks helped restore a relative calm over global financial markets Thursday.

The aim of such a move would be to thaw the lending freeze that threatens to push the world’s economy into recession. It comes after rampant fear about the global economy sent investors scurrying on Tuesday for safety in U.S. government securities despite an orchestrated round of rate cuts by the world’s central banks.

Investors also were hoping that selling, which gave the Dow its ninth straight day of losses, was overdone. Wall Street began the day higher, but then slid after declines in some blue chip names like General Motors Corp. weighed on the markets.

An administration official, who spoke late Tuesday on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made, said the $700 billion rescue package passed by Congress last week allows the Treasury Department to inject fresh capital into financial institutions and get ownership shares in return.

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Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told reporters that Treasury was moving quickly to implement the $700 billion rescue effort and he specifically mentioned reviewing ways to bolster the capital of banks.

“We will use all the tools we’ve been given to maximum effectiveness, including strengthening the capitalization of financial institutions of every size,” Paulson said at a Wednesday news conference.

His statements came on the heels of Britain’s move to pour cash into troubled banks in exchange for stakes in them a partial nationalization.

Asked whether he would try something like the British plan, Paulson said: “We have a broad range of authorities and tools. … We’ve emphasized the purchase of liquid assets, but we have a broad range of authorities. And I’m confident we have the authorities we need to work with going forward.”

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday cut its target for the benchmark rate on overnight loans between banks to 1.5 percent. The cut from 2 percent took the rate to its lowest level in more than four years.

In an unprecedented coordinated move, central banks in England, China, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland and the European Central Bank also cut rates after a series of high-stakes phone calls over several days between Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his counterparts.

The Fed acted in concert with the European Central Bank to make emergency interest rate cuts after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001. But Wednesday’s cuts were unique in the number of nations that participated, the Fed said.

On Thursday, rates in South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan were also trimmed and Asian markets appeared to find their feet after a brutal round of selling Wednesday.

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose more than 1 percent but fell back to close down 0.5 percent to 9,157.49, a five-year low. That followed a 9.4 percent plunge Wednesday, its biggest one-day drop since the 1987 market crash.

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