World shares fall as investors mull Chinese growth data

AP – Shares retreated in Europe and Asia yesterday as investors sold on worries Beijing might cut back on stimulus after China’s economy returned to growth in the last quarter.

The Shanghai Composite index led yesterday’s declines, dropping 4.5 per cent to 3,210.10. Benchmarks also fell in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney.

News that China’s economy grew 3.2 per cent in annual terms in April-June, after a 6.8 per cent contraction in the previous quarter, failed to keep an overnight rally going.

The expansion came as anti-virus lockdowns were lifted and factories and stores reopened. But it still was the weakest positive figure since China started reporting quarterly growth in the early 1990s.

Weak retail sales showed that boosting factory output is the easy part, said Stephen Innes of AxiCorp.

“No matter how much stimulus and fiscal sugar you try to entice consumers with, they will not leave their apartment and go on a spending spree until they feel confident the landscape is virus-free,” he said in a report.

A currency trader at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

The improved growth data was expected and provided an opportunity to cash in on profits from the recent run up in prices, analysts said.

Germany’s DAX skidded 0.7 per cent to 12,836.17 while the CAC 40 in Paris also shed 0.7 per cent, to 5,056.88. Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 0.8 per cent to 6,244.06. New York looked set for a retreat, with the future contract for the S&P 500 down 0.7 per cent while the contract for the Dow industrials declined 0.8 per cent.

In Asian trading, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.8 per cent to 22,770.36, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell two per cent to 24,970.69. In South Korea, the Kospi shed 0.8 per cent to 2,183.76.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.7 per cent to 6,010.90, as authorities reported that Victoria state had confirmed a record 317 new coronavirus cases in a day.

The Victoria government responded be reducing numbers of non-urgent surgeries allowed in hospitals to increase beds available for COVID-19 patients, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

Shares advanced worldwide on Wednesday after researchers announced a vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna had revved up people’s immune systems in early testing, as hoped.

But rising numbers of infections and deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic remain a constant source of uncertainty.

Worries also remain high that the stock market has gone overboard in its rally: It has taken less than four months for the S&P 500 to almost return to its record after being down nearly 34 per cent. But it could take years for the economy and corporate profits to get back to where they were before the pandemic struck.

A raft of troubling news, from the more than 13.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 to escalating friction between Washington and Beijing, hangs over the markets but has been countered by the massive amounts of stimulus poured into financial systems by central banks to counter the pandemic downturn.

“In most other realities, this would be ironic or absurd. But in the liquidity inundated post-COVID world markets, this is Thursday,” Mizuho Bank’s Riki Ogawa said in a commentary.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 0.62 per cent from 0.63 per cent late on Wednesday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation.

In other trading, benchmark United States (US) crude oil shed 32 cents to USD40.88 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 91 cents to settle at USD41.20 per barrel on Wednesday.

Brent oil, the international standard, gave up 24 cents to USD43.55 per barrel. It picked up 89 cents to settle at USD43.79 per barrel overnight.