Financial Meltdown Watch

| Sat Oct. 25, 2008 2:12 PM EDT

FINANCIAL MELTDOWN WATCH....A while back I was wondering who was left to bail out, now that we'd announced plans to take care of big banks, little banks, investment banks, and Fannie and Freddie. Insurance companies? Hedge funds? Today we learn the answer:

The Treasury Department is dramatically expanding the scope of its bailout of the financial system with a plan to take ownership stakes in the nation's insurance companies, signaling new concerns about a sector of the economy whose troubles until now have been overshadowed by the banking industry, government and industry sources said.

Anybody else?

The availability of U.S. government cash in the middle of a global credit squeeze is drawing requests from insurance firms, auto makers, state governments and transit agencies. While Treasury intended for the program to apply broadly, the growing requests could put a strain on the $700 billion, a sum that only last month stunned lawmakers.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of the world catching a cold when America sneezes, emerging markets, which had almost nothing to do with causing the financial crisis, are going to pay an even steeper price than us:

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng fell 8.3 percent to 12,618. Markets in India, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines were also down sharply as investors bailed from emerging markets around the world to cut their exposure to risky assets and meet redemption needs at home. On Thursday, key indices in Russia, Brazil and Mexico also fell.

"Funds are pouring out of emerging markets," said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. "A lot of money that flowed into the region during the last five years from the U.S. and Europe is being cashed out. The global crisis has come to Asia."

It's sort of like global warming: we cause the problem, but poor countries suffer the brunt of the consequences.

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