Global markets fell sharply on Monday as fears over rising inflation and a slowdown in China’s export growth fueled worries about the health of the world economy.
Stocks in Asia-Pacific markets, Europe and the US all dropped into the red as investors fretted that global growth is weakening, at a time when central banks are raising interest rates to rein in surging inflation.
In London, the FTSE 100 fell to its lowest level in more than seven weeks, down 1.7% or 125 points in afternoon trading at 7,268, with mining companies among the fallers. Japan’s Nikkei had closed down 2.5% earlier on Monday.
Stocks slid after China’s export growth hit a near two-year low of 3.9% a year in April, down from 14.7% growth in March. Imports were flat, as China’s Covid outbreaks cut demand and disrupted manufacturing.
Analysts said the slowdown showed that the world’s second-largest economy was suffering from lockdowns in big cities such as Shanghai, which have affected factory production and snarled up logistics chains.
“Two of the biggest concerns are supply chains and the impact of inflation including higher interest rates. As a result of severe Covid lockdowns, China’s export growth is at a two-year low, ”said Mihir Kapadia, chief executive of Sun Global Investments.
“The supply chain disruptions will in turn impact earnings of companies around the world, and thereby their stocks,” added Kapadia.
European markets fell to a two-month low, down 1.7% in afternoon trading.
In New York, the S&P 500 index fell 1.7% at the start of trading on Wall Street, after its worst streak of weekly losses in more than a decade.
Commodities weakened, with copper prices hitting their lowest since mid-December in London at $ 9,160 (£ 7,440) a tonne. Aluminum, zinc, nickel, lead and tin prices also dropped, on concerns that China’s restrictions are hitting manufacturing output.
Emerging market stocks hit their lowest level since June 2020, as China’s slowing economy added to pressures from rising global interest rates, and the ongoing disruption from the Ukraine war.
The Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, warned on Saturday that China’s employment situation was “complex and grave”, and called on government departments and regions to prioritize measures to support and retain jobs.
That reinforced worries that China’s lockdowns are having a serious economic impact.
US government bonds were also hit by fresh selling, which drove up the yield, or interest rate, on the 10-year Treasury note to the highest since November 2018. Yields rise when prices fall.
The US dollar reached a fresh 20-year high, lifted by expectations of further sharp increases in US interest rates this year to tackle rising inflation, which is running at 8.5%.
“There’s no stopping the mighty US dollar,” said Marios Hadjikyriacos of the XM brokerage. “Stress in equity markets, worries about a synchronized global economic slowdown, and the relentless grind higher in US yields continue to drive up demand for the reserve currency.”
Risky assets such as cryptocurrencies were also hit. Bitcoin has fallen to its lowest level since July 2021, dropping below $ 32,700, and has lost half its value in the last six months.