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Global stocks slump as growth fears trump trade joy

Updated August 15, 2019

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Eurozone indices were more than two per cent down by the close, while on Wall Street the Dow Jones index was down by nearly 600 points approaching midday in New York. — AFP/File
Eurozone indices were more than two per cent down by the close, while on Wall Street the Dow Jones index was down by nearly 600 points approaching midday in New York. — AFP/File

LONDON: Stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic saw hefty losses Wednesday, gripped by fears for the global economy only a day after enthusiasm over possible detente in an ongoing US-China trade war had given them a dizzying lift.

A German GDP contraction in the second quarter, weak Chinese industrial output and an inversion of the US yield curve all seemed to cement fears of a global slowdown.

“The joyous reaction in the markets to the news that the US would delay increasing tariffs on some Chinese consumer products appears to have been short-lived,” said David Cheetham at XTB.

Eurozone indices were more than two per cent down by the close, while on Wall Street the Dow Jones index was down by nearly 600 points approaching midday in New York.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond, meanwhile, briefly slid below the yield on two-year debt Wednesday, a rare phenomenon that has often been a harbinger of recession.

Dashboard of doom

“On the economics dashboard of doom, we have another flashing warning light,” said analysts at ING economics.

“The market is worried about a recession. For now we don’t see it, but there is a chance the fear becomes self-fulfilling,” they said.

Bond yields have gyrated in recent weeks, with analysts warning that sinking rates are a sign of a worsening medium-term and near-term economic outlook.

XTB’s Cheetham noted, however, that stocks were not usually in immediate trouble from bond yield inversions.

Whenever yields inverted in the past 60 years, it took US stocks at least three months, or even up to 22 months, before they peaked, he said.

“Sinking yields are the bond market’s way of pressuring the Fed to step on the monetary gas pedal and cut interest rates,” Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions, said in a note.

European and US stocks had risen across the board on Tuesday on news that the United States had delayed tariffs on a swathe of Chinese goods easing tensions in their bitter trade war, an upward trend that was mirrored by Asian stocks Wednesday.

Shanghai managed gains despite data showing Chinese factory output expanded last month at its slowest pace in 17 years.

Keep that scepticism

But in European trading, Frankfurt slumped to its lowest level since March after data showed Germany’s economy contracted in the second quarter, highlighting its vulnerability to trade tensions and stoking debate on higher government spending.

Germany actually lagged Italy’s standstill economy — and France which posted 0.2pc growth.

Milan’s stocks index meanwhile tumbled by nearly 3pc, a reflection of Italy navigating a political crisis.

“The lift (for stock markets) gained from Tuesday’s trade war twist... failed to carry over to Wednesday — the mood undermined by weak data from both China and Germany,” said Connor Campbell, analyst at Spreadex trading group.

Sterling rose after official data showed UK annual inflation rose unexpectedly to 2.1pc in July from 2pc the previous month.

Oil prices retreated, having surged on the tariffs news Tuesday when US President Donald Trump also said top-level negotiators for Washington and Beijing had held “very productive” talks by phone.

“Markets... rallied hard on the notion of Trump blinking, but overall a high degree of scepticism should remain and an imminent deal is unlikely given Trump has foreshadowed he is going to be campaigning hard on the issue in the 2020 election,” cautioned National Australia Bank analyst Tapas Strickland.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2019