LONDON (Aug 16): Global shares slid on Monday after a raft of Chinese economic indicators showed a surprisingly sharp slowdown in the engine of global growth, just as much of the world races to stem the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 with vaccinations.
A 10-day run of gains for European stocks came to a halt, with commodity-linked stocks — which are sensitive to demand from China — falling the most. The pan-European STOXX 600 index slipped 0.5% in early trading, easing from record levels last week.
Figures on July retail sales, industrial production and urban investment in China all missed forecasts, a trend that is only likely to get worse given the recent tightening in coronavirus restrictions there.
“The July data has been adversely affected by the massive flooding in China over that period, plus the movement restrictions internally and at key export ports, to curb the stubborn appearance of the Delta variant, albeit in small numbers,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.
“The latter is weighing on investors’ nerves now, especially when one looks at the evolution of outbreaks in the region from Australia to Singapore to Japan and everywhere in between. If anyone can break the trend, it is China.”
But widespread outbreaks and restrictions would be a game-changer for the recovery in Asia and potentially beyond, given the likely impact on supply chains, Halley said.
The sudden collapse of the Afghan government and what it may mean for political stability in the region added to uncertainty among investors and boosted defensive assets.
MSCI’s All Country World Index, which tracks shares across 49 countries, fell 0.2% on the day. US stock futures also traded down, with E-minis for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures 0.2% lower.
Chinese blue-chips were hanging onto gains of 0.2%, perhaps in anticipation of a more aggressive policy easing from Beijing.
“The data will likely intensify speculation of further reserve requirement cuts in the weeks ahead and be positive for bonds,” wrote analysts at TD Securities in a note.
“The central bank is also unlikely to welcome appreciation of the CNY on a trade weighted basis, while limiting CNY appreciation vs USD.”
Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.7%, though economic growth topped forecasts for the June quarter.
Wall Street had managed fresh records last week even as a survey showed a shock slump in US consumer sentiment to the lowest since 2011 amid Delta variant fears. The dismal report and China’s slowdown combined to pull 10-year Treasury yields down to 1.25%, a drop of 11 basis points in just two sessions.
That also wiped out a week of gains for the US dollar, sending it back to 92.547 against a basket of currencies from a near five-month top of 93.195.
The euro climbed to US$1.1791 and away from major chart support at US$1.1740, while the US dollar recoiled to 109.39 yen leaving behind last week’s peak of 110.79.
Kim Mundy, a senior currency strategist at CBA, argued the US dollar could rally this week if minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting confirm a hawkish shift on tapering.
The minutes are out on Wednesday while Fed chair Jerome Powell is speaking on Tuesday.
“We expect the FOMC to announce it will taper its monthly asset purchases in September if the August payrolls is strong,” said Mundy.
“We judge a tapering announcement next month is not widely expected, so if the minutes show the FOMC discussed the possibility of announcing a taper as soon as September, we expect the dollar to jump.”
In Asia, the Malaysian ringgit fell to a one-year low as Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin resigned.
In commodity markets, gold dipped to US$1,771 in the wake of a sudden stop-loss tumble to US$1,684 at the start of last week.
Oil prices eased partly on concerns coronavirus travel restrictions would hurt demand, particularly in China.
Brent fell 1.5% to US$69.53 a barrel, while US crude lost 1.7% to US$67.24.