World stocks plunge as recession fears bite
AFP - Friday, November 7
LONDON (AFP) - - Global stock markets plunged Thursday on growing fears the world economy faces a deep and long lasting recession as the financial crisis saps growth and dangerously weakens the banking system.
Dealers said investors found no cheer in an unprecedented British interest rate cut and a more modest eurozone reduction, seeing instead only more signs of danger ahead.
Normally, in lower borrowing rates would be a strong buy signal but markets were suspicious about the need for such drastic action, especially in Britain, believing the economy must be seriously at risk.
The Bank of England slashed its key lending rate by a record 1.5 percentage points to 3.0 percent while the European Central Bank cut its main lending rate by half a percentage point to 3.25 percent.
"The fear is now that the (economic) situation could be much more dire than first perceived," Joshua Raymond, market strategist at City Index, said of the Bank of England move.
"We already know that GDP (Gross Domestic Product) contracted last quarter at a much faster rate than was expected and today's rate cut looks to accelerate and cement this fear," Raymond added.
Both the BoE and ECB said they were acting in the face of an increasingly grim economic climate, with ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet holding the door open for further reductions in face of deteriorating prospects.
The ECB rate cut was as expected but coming after very weak German industrial orders and a series of negative IMF forecasts for next year -- with growth revised to recession -- the move provided only fleeting comfort before the markets headed down again in late trade.
The International Monetary Fund said the advanced economies were expected to contract 0.3 percent in 2009, the first such decline since World War II, with the United States shrinking 0.7 percent.
Citing the financial crisis, the IMF slashed its global growth forecast to 2.2 percent -- only less than a month ago it had expected growth of 0.5 percent in the advanced economies and 3.0 percent worldwide.
"Prospects for global growth have deteriorated over the past month as financial sector deleveraging has continued and producer and consumer confidence have fallen," the IMF said.
On Wall Street, which plunged more than 5.0 percent on Wednesday, stocks opened with modest losses but were soon falling sharply as investors tried to get to grips with the darkening economic outlook after the brief euphoria Tuesday sparked by Democrat Barack Obama's presidential election victory.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 2.73 percent at around 1630 GMT.
"The afterglow following the presidential election ... wasn't long at all," said Patrick O'Hare at Briefing.com.
"Wall Street wasted little time turning its attention back to a slumping economy and that's where its focus still lies."
Dealers in New York said the market was very nervous ahead of a key employment report due Friday which was expected to show a loss of some 200,000 jobs in October as the US economy slowed sharply.
"The expected weak October employment report will ... provide another test for the market," said Al Goldman at Wachovia Securities.
Investors must develop confidence in Obama and the new Congress, he said, adding that "this will take time."
In European trade, London's FTSE 100 index of leading shares lost 5.70 percent to 4,272.41 points, the CAC 40 in Paris tumbled 6.38 percent to 3,387.25 percent and in Frankfurt the DAX shed 6.84 percent to 4,813.57 points
Russia's stock markets plunged more than six percent following worldwide falls and declining oil prices.
The dollar-denominated RTS fell 6.3 percent and the ruble-denominated MICEX dropped 9.62 percent, seemingly unaffected by interest rate reductions in Europe intended to boost the region.
Regulators suspended trading on both exchanges for an hour during the day in response to sharp falls, the latest in a series of such closures amid continued volatility.
In other European stock markets Thursday, losses were also considerable.
Madrid lost 6.27 percent, Milan was down 5.06 percent, Switzerland shed 4.08 percent, Amsterdam fell 6.74 percent and Brussels was off 3.03 percent.
The Nordic markets suffered especially, with Oslo tumbling 9.95 percent, Stockholm down 6.33 percent, Helsinki off 6.71 percent and Copenhagen off 6.40 percent.
Earlier in the day, Asian markets saw losses of of up to seven percent as recent technical gains there turned to dust, confounding hopes that share prices might finally have found a floor.
Tokyo closed down 6.53 percent, Hong Kong dived 7.1 percent and Sydney fell 4.3 percent.
"Now that the (US presidential election) is over, investors are sobering up and looking at the economic gloom," said Mizuho Investors Securities broker Masatoshi Sato.
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