World stock markets mostly sank Monday and oil prices slumped as China’s Covid lockdowns added to stubborn fears over the impact of rising US interest rates and surging inflation.
Frankfurt, London and Paris all fell more than two percent, as did Tokyo.
On Wall Street, the Dow was down nearly two percent in late morning trading, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq continuing a steep decline with a 3.7 percent drop.
Meanwhile, bitcoin plunged to a 2022 low below $33,000 as investors shunned the volatile cryptocurrency.
“The bloodletting on stock markets has continued today as we start a new week … with the biggest declines being seen in basic resources after the latest China trade data showed that imports ground to a halt in April,” said market analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets UK.
Millions of people in Beijing stayed home on Monday as China’s capital tries to fend off a Covid-19 outbreak with creeping restrictions on movement.
Beijing residents fear they may soon find themselves in the grip of the same draconian measures that have trapped most of Shanghai’s 25 million people at home for weeks.
Lockdowns across dozens of Chinese cities — from the manufacturing hubs of Shenzhen and Shanghai to the breadbasket of Jilin — have wreaked havoc on supply chains over recent months and further stoked global inflationary pressures.
Investors were given more bad news on Monday as China’s April exports slumped to their lowest level in almost two years, due to the nation’s strict zero-Covid policy.
Exports plunged to 3.9 percent on-year, while imports were stagnant for April.
Data also showed the lockdowns have already hit oil demand in China, prompting a five percent drop in oil prices.
“Oil is offside too as China confirmed its oil imports in the first four months of the year fell by 4.8 percent,” said David Madden at Equiti Capital.
– Anxiety spreads –
Stock markets had dived last week after the Federal Reserve ramped up interest rates by a half-percentage point and flagged more hikes to tackle decades-high inflation.
“Anxiety is stemming from the Fed’s next moves, with uncertainty creeping in about the scale and speed of interest rate hikes,” said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Sophie Lund-Yates.
Analysts at Charles Schwab brokerage said that “elevated inflation pressures continue to cloud conviction, with the Fed and other central banks beginning to tighten monetary policy.
“Meanwhile, inflation concerns continue to be exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and ongoing supply chain challenges,” they added.
Global markets have also taken a beating this year from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin on Monday defended Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and blamed Kyiv and the West, as he looked to use grand Victory Day celebrations to mobilise patriotic support for the campaign.
However, investors were relieved that Putin made no major announcements, despite reports he could use the anniversary to announce an escalation of the conflict or a general mobilisation.
“Putin has not declared a war on Ukraine to enable full mobilisation which is obviously a relief,” noted Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.
– Key figures at around 1530 GMT –
New York – Dow: DOWN 1.9 percent at 32,266.84 points
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 2.5 percent at 3,486.21
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 2.3 percent at 7,216.58
Frankfurt – DAX: DOWN 2.2 percent at 13,380.67
Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 2.8 percent at 6,086.02
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.09 percent at 3,004.14 (close)
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 2.5 percent at 26,319.34 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: Closed for a holiday
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 5.0 percent at $106.77 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 5.4 percent at $103.87 per barrel
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0536 from $1.0551 on Friday
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2311 from $1.2348
Euro/pound: UP at 85.55 pence from 85.45 pence
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 130.23 yen from 130.56 yen