LONDON, Sept 16 — Stock markets fell further today as weak UK retail sales data and a dire warning from global shipping giant FedEx fuelled fears of recession.
Equities were already struggling this week after data showed US inflation slowed but not as much as expected, fuelling fears of aggressive monetary tightening by central banks.
Investors worry that central banks will move too aggressively to tame inflation through rate hikes that could put the brakes on economic growth.
Wall Street opened lower after FedEx reported on Thursday that its shipped fewer packages than expected over the summer due to weakness in the global economy.
The company said it was closing stores, freezing hiring and parking aircraft, while warning of a big earnings hit, with its CEO Raj Subramaniam telling CNBC he expects a global recession.
"The market is looking weak this morning because of the FedEx warning, but it really goes beyond that," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare.
"There are pressing concerns that the aggressive rate hikes by central banks thus far, and the ones that are yet to come, will drive the global economy into a recession that is not 'soft'," O'Hare said.
European markets fell in afternoon deals while the British pound tanked to a 37-year low against the dollar at US$1.1351 on news that British retail sales tumbled by far more than forecast in August as shoppers faced rampant inflation.
Sales by volume dived 1.6 percent last month, more than triple expectations.
Sterling has hit a series of 1985 lows in recent weeks, also as the US Federal Reserve implements aggressive hikes interest rate hikes.
'Markets in pain'
"Markets are in a lot of pain, and the UK's retail data has made things only worse for traders as it clearly pointed out one thing: an imminent recession," said AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam.
"When you look at the sterling against the dollar, it seems like there are no buyers out there."
Elsewhere, Frankfurt equities dived 1.6 percent and Paris shed 1.3 percent as investors digested confirmation of record-high inflation in the eurozone.
"Data for August confirm that price pressures are very strong and broad-based" with eurozone inflation at 9.1 percent, said Capital Economics analyst Jack Allen-Reynolds.
"The European Central Bank will need to continue hiking interest rates aggressively at forthcoming meetings."
The ECB had last week hiked its key rate by a historic 75 basis points, and markets expect a similar-sized move at the October policy meeting.
The Fed and Bank of England are widely expected to ramp up borrowing costs next week.
The US central bank has lifted borrowing costs by 75 basis points at each of its last two meetings. — AFP
Key figures at around 1400 GMT
New York - Dow: DOWN 1.0 percent at 30,667.55 points
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 at 7,256.06
Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 1.6 percent at 12,756.46
Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.3 percent at 6,079.27
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.1 percent at 3,502.91
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.1 percent at 27,567.75 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 2.3 percent at 3,126.40 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.9 percent at 18,761.69 (close)
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.1414 from $1.1467 on Thursday
Euro/pound: UP at 87.54 pence from 87.21 pence
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $0.9994 from $1.0001
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 143.02 yen from 143.45 yen
Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.0 percent at $91.76 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.8 at $85.80 per barrel