JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Indonesia’s currency suffered its worst one-day fall ever today, plunging 11 percent to a new low amid rumors that President Suharto was ill.
Dealers said nervous financial markets have been gripped by speculation that Asia’s longest-serving head of state was sick and hospitalized, and even that he had died.
Attempting to calm the turmoil, State Secretariat Minister Murdiono said the 76-year-old leader was merely resting at home on the orders of his doctors after a 12-day overseas trip.
Even so, the rupiah hit a record low of 4,665 against the U.S., down from 4,155 late Monday. The fragile Indonesian currency has lost about half of its value since July.
The rupiah and other Asian currencies began sliding months ago as once-healthy economies slowed in a region that had enjoyed rapid growth for years. The International Monetary Fund has fashioned multibillion-dollar bailout plans for Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea.
Murdiono said Suharto was concerned about the rupiah’s plunge, but ``smiled″ when told of the rumors that he had died. The president was holding daily meetings with key officials, he added.
The minister declined to say whether Suharto would attend a meeting of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
Suharto, a former army general, has led Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation, for 32 years and is expected to be re-elected to another term in March.