Stocks, oil plunge on growing signs of global slowdown

The slide in equity and oil markets erased the previous session’s sharp gains after the United States moved to delay tariffs on some Chinese products. — AFP pic
The slide in equity and oil markets erased the previous session’s sharp gains after the United States moved to delay tariffs on some Chinese products. — AFP pic

NEW YORK, Aug 15 — Equity markets tanked and oil prices fell sharply yesterday after a closely watched bond indicator pointed to the growing risk of a US recession that was heightened by data showing Germany’s economy in contraction and China’s worsening.

Yields on two-year US Treasury notes rose above the 10-year yield for the first time since 2007, a metric known as an inversion that is widely seen as a classic recession signal.

A GDP report showing German output fell 0.1 per cent in the second quarter from the previous three months coupled with Chinese industrial production rising at its weakest pace since 2002 added to investor fears of a global slowdown in growth.

US stocks fell almost 3 per cent and major equity indices in Europe closed down 2 per cent or near that while crude prices slumped almost 5 per cent at one point.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note fell below 1.6 per cent to its lowest since September 2016, as investors sought safety from the equity market carnage.

“The combination of those three things (yield inversion, Germany’s GDP and Chinese industrial production) has refreshed fears of a global slowdown,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

“We’re seeing that flow through to stock prices falling and yields across the globe plummeting as well,” he said.

The slide in equity and oil markets erased the previous session’s sharp gains after the United States moved to delay tariffs on some Chinese products.

China’s offshore yuan gave up some early gains as the weaker-than-expected data tempered optimism generated on Tuesday by the US decision to delay raising tariffs in September.

MSCI’s gauge of global equity performance fell 1.98 per cent and its emerging market index fell 0.59 per cent. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares closed down 1.62 per cent.

The Bovespa index fell more than 3 per cent and the Mexican bolsa slid 2 per cent. Bay Street in Toronto fell 1.75 per cent.

Negative interest rates from the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan are creating an adverse effect on yields everywhere, including the United States, Arone said.

“How much more can US interest rates rise in the face of all those low interest rates? In a lot of ways it’s almost like the medicine continues to make the patient more sick,” he said.

The market rout is likely due, at least in part, to program trading that was triggered by the yield inversion, said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

“This level of sell-off is primarily driven by institutional program trades,” he said. “Moves of this magnitude are mostly driven by programs that are tied to” the inverted yield curve.

On Wall Street, the interest-rate sensitive bank index slipped 4.22 per cent and the broader financial sector fell 3.36 per cent.

The dollar index added 0.17 per cent and the euro fell 0.3 per cent to US$1.1138. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.77 per cent versus the greenback at 105.91 per dollar.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped US$1.87 to settle at US$55.23 a barrel, having gained 4 per cent in the previous session, the most in just over a month. London Brent fell US$1.82 to settle at US$59.48 a barrel.

US gold futures settled up 0.9 per cent at US$1,527.80.

“There is plenty of doom and gloom to spread across the globe,” said John Doyle, vice president for dealing and trading at Tempus Inc in Washington. The US yield curve “is a major recession indicator. Germany, Italy and the UK are likely headed for a recession. Today’s Chinese data was shockingly bad.” — Reuters

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