World stock markets are getting pummeled again Thursday, following the sharp losses on Wall Street on Wednesday caused by growing fears for the global economy.
The usual proxies for global growth–oil and other commodities, emerging market currencies, energy and mining stocks–are almost all sharply lower as investors bail out of any kind of trade predicated on growth in China and the rest of the emerging world, which accounts for 85% of the world’s population.
Emerging markets also account for over 50% of world GDP, and have been responsible for the lion’s share of global growth ever since the 2008 financial crisis, but capital has flooded out of them as the Federal Reserve has tightened its monetary policy and the limits of China’s economic model have become apparent. China alone registered capital outflows of over $100 billion in December.
Overnight, crude oil futures had fallen to a new 13-year low of $29.72 a barrel, although by 0600 ET they had recovered by nearly $1 to stand at $30.73.
Today’s currency of choice for a good kicking by the U.S. dollar is its New Zealand counterpart, which has fallen by a clunking 1.5%. New Zealand’s currency, and its economy, has become a proxy in financial markets for Chinese demand for agricultural commodities, the same way as Australia’s dollar has become a proxy for Chinese industrial commodity demand.
The dollar has also made fresh advances against the offshore Chinese yuan (the rate that isn’t as tightly controlled by the People’s Bank of China), indicating a fresh wave of speculation against the Chinese currency. And the dollar is also up against currencies from South Africa (another commodity proxy) to Indonesia (which cut interest rates earlier and suffered a terror attack), Turkey (more terror attacks and political instability) and the U.K. (fears over it exiting the European Union).
In short, anything that smells of risk of any sort is being shunned, with much of the only support coming from traders desperately trying to keep prices away from levels where big options positions will be triggered.
The actual news has not been all bad overnight. Germany’s economy, the engine of the eurozone’s, grew by a respectable 1.5% in 2015, according to preliminary estimates. U.K. luxury group Burberry Plc’s (BURBY) shares leapt 4% after it said that Chinese sales had started growing again (although they fell back after the market digested that its Hong Kong sales had taken a pounding). And Tesco Plc (TSCDY), the U.K.’s largest food retailer, also announced much stronger-than-expected figures for the holiday season, lifting its stock by 4.2%.
But on the debit side, Japan’s machinery orders fell, a rough proxy for Asian business investment, fell by 25.8% on the year in November (offsetting any enthusiasm for the Japanese yen, which is normally in demand as a safe haven on days like this.)
And more shade was cast by French carmaker Renault (RNSDF), whose shares plummeted 20% after the news agency AFP reported that its offices had been raided in connection with a French probe into excess emissions by some of its vehicles. Renault hasn’t commented on the report yet.