By Roland JACKSON
World equities mostly fell Thursday and the euro hit a five-year dollar low as investors worried about growth amid stubborn inflation and rising interest rates.
Frankfurt, London and Paris stock markets each sank following heavy falls in Asia.
Meanwhile, Wall Street was mostly lower in late morning trading, with the Dow down 0.3 percent.
Panic-stricken investors also sent virtual unit bitcoin tumbling to the lowest level since late 2020 after a dramatic collapse in some stablecoin cryptocurrencies.
Oil prices pushed higher as investors focused on supply issues.
– ‘Sticky inflation’ worries –
Data released Wednesday showed US inflation slowed to 8.3 percent in April after a four-decade peak of 8.5 percent in March, but that was less than what experts had forecast and prompted concerns inflation will remain high.
Wednesday’s stock trading is “pointing to a market that is becoming more concerned about slowing growth, and sticky inflation, aka rising stagflation and, or recession risk”, according to analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.
The dollar has gotten a boost, both as the greenback is seen as a haven in uncertain times and as the US Federal Reserve has taken the lead in raising interest rates in the face of surging inflation.
The dollar is currently at a two-decade high against a trade-weighted index of rival currencies, and on Thursday the euro slumped to a five-year dollar low at $1.0389.
“Given the combination of a relatively hawkish monetary policy stance and a dollar-positive global backdrop, we expect the dollar to grind higher against nearly all developed and emerging market currencies over the course of the Fed’s current tightening cycle,” said analysts at Capital Economics.
Interest rates are being hiked worldwide to tackle decades-high inflation, which is fuelled mostly by rocketing energy costs.
Both raising prices and borrowing costs threaten to halt growth in many countries, however.
London’s stock market was slammed Thursday also by news that the UK economy shrank in March on fallout from soaring inflation, increasing the prospect of a recession — or two quarters of contraction in a row.
The data sent the pound sliding to a May 2020 low at $1.2166.
World markets have been volatile for much of 2022 owing to China’s Covid-19 lockdowns, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and as surging inflation weighed on consumer sentiment.
Cryptocurrency trading has also been dampening investor sentiment after two so-called stablecoins proved to be anything but. Supposedly pegged to the dollar, both TerraUSD and Tether saw the values collapse.
“The worry is that there will be a spillover to other risk assets like stocks, which could be treated as a source of funds to meet margin calls or which could simply be subjected to an exacerbation of the negative sentiment that has had a vice grip on the market for most of the year,” said market analyst Patrick O’Hare at Briefing.com.
Bitcoin slumped below $27,000, before recovering to stand down around 6 percent at $29,091.39.
© Agence France-Presse