Margin calls leap on war fears

Falls on the sharemarket due to fears of a war in Iraq have sparked an increase in margin calls to a level not seen since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. Thousands of investors are being called on to put between $5,000 and $10,000 each into their share portfolios.

Leveraged Equities says margin calls have leapt since January 2003, returning to about September 2001 levels, and predicted that more calls are on the way. At Macquarie Bank's margin lending unit, a director said there were over 1,000 calls in February 2003, about 2-2.5 more than usual. We're at or approaching record levels, he said.