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How bad will things get?

Stock markets have further to fall, Bank of America’s making redundancies, and recruiters say some banks are already scaling back Asian hiring plans.

Reuters reports that Bank of America is scaling back its DCM business in Asia Pac and making around 15 people – mostly structurers and originators – redundant.

After steep falls of 20% or more from last year’s peaks, many
equities now look cheap. But even after the Federal Reserve’s dramatic
“emergency” rate cut of 0.75% – the
biggest single cut in 26 years – market experts are still cautious.

The bottom has not been reached just yet, says investment guru Jim
Rogers. According to Rogers, global markets may very well have a nice rally for a few weeks
or months as the Fed mistakenly pumps out huge amounts of money, but
they still have further to fall.

“Singapore’s stock markets are down 20%, but that’s not much
of a drop, especially when you have the kind of excesses the world has
seen in the past five to 10 years… I’m not [just] picking
Singapore, but I’m talking about most markets around the world,” says
Rogers, who was dubbed the Indiana Jones of finance by Time magazine in 1994.

The stock of banks like Merrill Lynch is already down around 40% on this time last year. This isn’t great news if you’re receiving a high proportion of your bonus in stock – unless, of course, the value of that stock rises in the not too distant future, which Rogers says is unlikely.

“For what it is worth, I am and have been short Citibank and the US
investment bankers. I plan to short more if we get a rally. I am very
worried about what some investors are doing with financial stocks.”

“I am afraid things will be worse over the next
few years since this has been the area of the worst excess in recent

A headhunter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says many
investment banks have scaled down their Asian fixed income and
treasury hiring targets on an “informal” basis.

Dangerous equity markets could also spell bad news for Singapore’s wealth managers, whose clients are liable to invest less actively. But one private banking executive says savvy investors won’t be scared off: “Market volatility causes investors anxiety, but investors who have
seen many downturns can use it to add to equity positions in the long
term,” says JPMorgan Private Bank’s executive director Elan Cohen.

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