London: European markets fell on Monday as investor confidence took a knock from last week’s spike in Treasury yields and from a Chinese market slump brought on by concern that an escalating trade war with the United States could curb China’s growth.
Chinese markets re-opened after a week’s holiday, and stocks recorded their biggest one-day drop since February, with the Shanghai-Shenzhen CSI300 down more than 4 per cent for only the second time in more than 2 1/2 years.
This helped set the tone for the European open and stock markets fell with the pan-European index down 0.8 per cent and Germany’s DAX 0.8 per cent lower.
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, fell 0.35 per cent.
The fall in global equities boosted demand for the dollar as investors rushed for safety. Against a basket of its rivals the US currency rose 0.3 per cent, edging towards a 14-month high hit in mid-August.
Investor fears of higher US interest rates, global protectionism, emerging market weakness and an Italian budget row have all combined to send equities sharply into the red in October, with world stocks down more than 2 per cent already.
“Europe is stuck between China and the US, it is feeling the heat from draining dollar liquidity and the continued anti-trade rhetoric,” said Talib Shaikh, manager of the Jupiter Flexible Income Fund.
“We don’t think this is a dip to be buying across the Eurozone. Nothing there looks desperately appealing, and if the macro headwinds don’t look to abate, further cheapening of valuations looks to be warranted.”
The dark mood in China sent shivers across Asian markets and will add to investors nervousness — the MSCI benchmark emerging markets equity index dropped 0.8 per cent to its lowest level since May 2017 and is now down 5.5 per cent in October, the biggest monthly loss since January 2016.
Growth concerns led the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) on Sunday to cut the level of cash that banks must hold as reserves, aimed at lowering financing costs as policymakers worry about the fallout from the tariff row with the United States.
“China just cut reserve requirement ratios and expanded monetary policy, which is a response to the fact that China’s economy is slowing down, but the market doesn’t believe there is enough stimulus to cut the slowdown,” said Guillermo Felices, a senior strategist at BNP Paribas Asset Management, calling the current concerns markets face a “powerful cocktail”.
“They’ve injected more liquidity into the market to contain the slowdown, which has already translated into weaker equity prices.”
The Chinese slide comes after US Treasury yields hit seven-year highs on Friday, following data that signalled a continued tightening of the labour market and increased inflationary pressures — adding to the reasons for the US Federal Reserve to continue with its hiking cycle.
Diverging monetary policy between Beijing and Washington pushed the offshore yuan to its lowest since mid-August at 6.937 against the dollar.
Brazil outperformed other emerging markets on Monday after far-right former army captain Jair Bolsonaro won nearly half the votes in the first round of presidential elections on Sunday.
London-listed Brazilian ETFs were up 6-7 per cent, while the real was forecast to open stronger.
US trading is likely to be muted on Monday, with markets closed for Columbus Day.
Italy under pressure
Renewed concerns over Italy’s budget also added to the risk-off tone in European equities. The FTSE MIB skidded 2.3 per cent to its lowest since 21 April 2017, as government bonds yields hit new highs, putting pressure on bank shares.
The European Commission has told Italy it is concerned about its budget deficit plans for the next three years since they breach what the EU asked the country to do in July, but Rome insisted on Saturday it would “not retreat” from its spending plans.
Italy’s 10-year government bond hit four-and-a-half-year highs on Monday, and its spread over Germany reached 309 basis points, its widest in five years. As a result, the euro fell 0.44 per cent to $1.1469, close to its lowest since August 20.
Germany’s 10-year government bond, the benchmark for the region, remains close to four-month highs at 0.559 per cent.
Oil dropped back to $82.93 per barrel after Washington said it may grant waivers to sanctions against Iran’s oil exports next month, and as Saudi Arabia was said to be replacing any potential shortfall from Iran.