Nightmare at the market as stock prices slump around the world

Posted by News Express | 16 January 2016 | 2,311 times

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The start of this year has been the worst for financial markets since the onset of the Great Depression, with stock prices slumping around the world amid mounting concern over the situation in China.

A wave of selling has swept the world’s leading financial centres over the past two weeks, with the value of Britain’s leading companies falling by more than £110 billion since the start of the year.

The FTSE 100 index of Britain’s biggest quoted companies fell 114 points, or 2 per cent, to 5,804 yesterday — the lowest close since November 2012. Indices in Europe and America have fared even worse: the Shanghai market was the worst performer, closing down 3.6 per cent, taking its total losses to 18 per cent for 2016. This was prompted by the price of a barrel of Brent crude dipping below the $30 mark, for the third time this week. In America the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 391 points, or 2.4 per cent, at 15,988.

The FTSE 100 index of Britain’s biggest quoted companies fell 114 points, or 2 per cent, to 5,804 yesterday — the lowest close since November 2012. In America the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 391 points, or 2.4 per cent, at 15,988.

The Shanghai market was the worst performer, closing down 3.6 per cent, taking its losses for the year so far to 18 per cent. This was prompted by the price of a barrel of Brent crude dipping below $30 for the third time this week.

David Buik, of Panmure Gordon, the investment bank, suggested that the “financial carnage” in stock markets in the first two weeks of the year was the worst since 1928.

Investors seeking safe havens have turned to gold, sparking a 2 per cent recovery in its price to $1,094 an ounce.

George Osborne underlined the pessimistic mood by warning last week of grave threats to the British economy, the chancellor saying that it could be “the year we look back at the beginning of the decline” if the country abandoned his agenda. Fears of another crash were heightened by a research note by an economist at RBS advising clients to “sell everything except high-quality bonds”.

Some economists have said, however, that the risk of contagion from China has been exaggerated. It is only Britain’s sixth-largest export market, representing no more than 3.6 per cent of overseas sales, behind the Republic of Ireland.

In China, interventions by the Communist party to prop up markets have done little to reassure investors, and the plight of the world’s second-largest economy is gripping markets. There is strong evidence of a slowdown, after an unprecedented boom between 2000 and 2014, when the size of the Chinese economy ballooned by a factor of eight. The Beijing authorities have set a growth target of 6.5 per cent for this year, but scepticism over the accuracy of its economic data is growing.

Fathom Consulting, an economic forecaster, thinks that growth in China could be as low as 2.4 per cent, rather than the official 6.8 per cent. The difference between those figures, in dollar terms, equated to more than the entire economy of the United Arab Emirates, suggesting that a severe jolt is in store for the rest of the world.

The Chinese government’s botched interventions in local stock exchanges have heightened the nervousness, and added to the steep fall in the price of oil. It tumbled to below $29 a barrel yesterday, its lowest since 2004.

•Text courtesy of The Times, London. Photo shows traders on the floor of a stock exchange.


Source: News Express

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