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Many world stock markets now off 50% or more from peaks

October 24, 2008 |  2:21 pm

Here's a club no country wants to join, yet its ranks are swelling: The 50%-Off (Or Worse) Stock Market Club.

Today brought another huge wave of selling in equity markets worldwide, as investors, understandably, keep focusing on the long list of negatives -- including still-severe credit market woes, forced asset sales by hedge funds as their clients bail out, and the likelihood of a deep recession ahead that will slash corporate earnings.

The wealth destruction around the globe from falling stock prices now has reached massive proportions.

Remember all that talk about "de-coupling," and how foreign economies and markets would hold up even if the U.S. took a tumble?

Germantrader Instead, even though America is the source of the credit debacle that is ravaging the global financial system, many foreign markets -- both developed and emerging -- are faring much worse than Wall Street.

I tallied up how much some major and minor markets have fallen from their recent highs, most of which were reached in the second half of 2007.

Here’s a sampling (not meant to be all-inclusive):

Markets down more than 70%: Vietnam (-70.5%), Peru (-73.2%), Ireland (-73.4%), Russia (-73.9%), Iceland (-88.7%).

Markets down between 60% and 70%: Hong Kong (-60.1%), Poland (-62.6%), China (-69.8%).

Markets down between 50% and 60%: South Korea (-54.5%), Italy (-55.2%), Egypt (-56.9%), Brazil (-57.2%), Japan (-58.1%), Singapore (-58.2%), Turkey (-58.5%), India (-58.3%).

Markets down between 40% and 50%: Great Britain (-42.3%), Australia (-43.3%), U.S.-S&P 500 (-44.0%), Spain (-46.4%), Germany (-47.0%), Mexico (-48.3%).

Note that, for U.S. investors who own foreign stocks, the losses in many cases are worse because the dollar has rallied against most foreign currencies in recent months. A strong dollar means stocks denominated in foreign currencies have even less value when translated into dollars.

For example, the average European blue chip stock is down 45.6% year-to-date in euros, but down 53% in dollars. The euro today plunged to a two-year low of $1.262 from $1.285 on Thursday.

Given the huge rush by Americans into foreign equities during the boom years of 2003-07, investors who never took any of their paper profits now are seeing them wither.

Photo: A German stock trader in Frankfurt today, where the main market index dived 5% (Martin Oeser / AFP Getty Images)

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