ISSN: 2056-3736 (Online Version) | 2056-3728 (Print Version)

image_pdfimage_print

Global stock markets fell sharply Thursday amid continued concerns over lackluster global growth.

The declines came after Wednesday’s minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s July meeting offered no clear signal that it is getting ready to raise interest rates next month. Fed officials highlighted a range of reasons for caution, from tumbling oil prices to a slowdown in China.

The suggestion that rates could stay at rock bottom beyond September brought little comfort to investors, who have recently been rattled by signs that Beijing is struggling to contain the fallout from a cooling economy after devaluing the Chinese currency last week.

U.S. stocks fell, echoing declines in Asia and Europe, putting them on track for a third-straight session of losses.

The S&P 500 was 1.1% lower midmorning. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.2%.

“A more dovish-than-expected set of [Fed] minutes might have been expected to calm investor nerves, but the highlighting of a softer global growth outlook has just intensified their recent concerns,” said Ian Williams, economist and strategist at brokerage Peel Hunt.

Jitters from China have hit a market where stock valuations are high and the Fed is injecting an extra degree of uncertainty, according to David Vickers, a senior portfolio manager at Russell Investments.

“The timing of the Chinese devaluation was unfortunate. In an expensive market that was one more piece of bad news investors weren’t willing to look through,” he said.

With the timing of a rate increase still cloudy, investors turned to the latest economic data for clues. Initial jobless claims rose 4,000 to 277,000 in the week ended Aug. 15, the Labor Department said Thursday. The level is historically low, suggesting the labor market continues to improve.

Earlier, Chinese shares extended their streak of big swings.

The Shanghai Composite closed 3.4% lower after taking a late tumble, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1.8%, while Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.9%.

The Stoxx Europe 600 was 1.9% late in the session, deepening Wednesday’s heavy decline. Germany’s DAX was 2.0% lower. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 was down 0.4% and has now lost more than 10% since its all-time high in April, following the DAX into a so-called correction.

European shares have been hit hard by China’s recent devaluation of the yuan, which stung many exporting companies that rely on Chinese demand.

More broadly, low inflation in the eurozone is a worry for stock investors, according to Fran├žois Savary, who oversees around $11 billion as chief strategist at Swiss bank Reyl.

“The combination of China slowing and falling commodity prices is really bringing the deflation scenario back to the forefront,” he said. Falling prices would hurt corporate profits and drive investors out of equities and into bonds, Mr. Savary added.

Oil prices remained under pressure.

U.S. oil prices slid to fresh six-year lows, before rebounding slightly, after data on Wednesday showed a surprise increase in U.S. stockpiles.

The worries about a global supply glut and weak demand also weighed on Brent crude, which fell 0.7% to $46.85 a barrel, having earlier touched its lowest since January.

The Fed minutes also brought little respite to beleaguered emerging-market currencies. The Turkish lira fell sharply, briefly breaking 3 lira per dollar, an all-time low. The Indian rupee, Indonesian rupiah, Russian ruble and South African rand also weakened against the greenback.28b0dc903877794e035c151974bfd2ce_S