World Stocks Retreat as Oil Dips and Brexit Worries Flare

February 23, 2016, 11:48 AM UTC
Stock Market Down
Photograph by Sasha Galatchenko—Getty Images/iStockphoto

European shares retreated on Tuesday morning, with falling commodities prices and disappointing updates from Standard Chartered and BHP Billiton weighing on the market.

Standard Chartered (SCBFF) fell 5.5% after the emerging markets-focused bank reported an 84% fall in profits as weaker global financial markets, tumbling commodity prices and rising loan impairments hammered revenues.

Shares in BHP Billiton (BHP) dropped 4.3% after the miner slashed its interim dividend by 75%, abandoning a long-held policy of steady or higher payouts, and reporting its first net loss in more than 16 years.

Miners were the biggest sectoral decliners, with the STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources index falling 2.2 percent, hit by BHP and weaker metals prices.



Sterling Effort

Earlier in Asia, shares retreated from a seven-week high as the oil price rally that had boosted global equity markets reversed. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.3% and Japan’s Nikkei erased morning gains to close down 0.4%.

Chinese stocks closed 0.9% lower, their biggest fall in three weeks, while U.S. futures pointed to a fall of around 0.2% on Wall Street.

Oil markets jumped as much as 7% on Monday—and had rallied around 30% from their lows a month ago—as speculation about falling U.S. shale output fed the notion that crude prices may be bottoming after their 20-month collapse.

But they retreated on Tuesday on concern that any cuts to U.S. production may be countered by rising output from Iran.

U.S. crude futures fell 2.2% to $32.66 a barrel and the international benchmark Brent slid 2.1% back below $34 a barrel.

In currency markets the British pound remained vulnerable a day after falling nearly 2%, its biggest one-day drop in almost six years, on worries Britain may leave the European Union.

The pound hit a seven-year low of $1.4057 on Monday, after London Mayor Boris Johnson, one of the country’s most popular ruling party politicians, announced his support for Britain to leave the EU in June’s referendum.

Sterling last stood at $1.4113, down slightly on the day.

“The 30-year low is $1.373 seen in June 2001, so the whole ‘Brexit’ discussion is pushing us against what has been a well held level at around $1.40 that sterling has bounced off several times over the last three decades,” said Jim Reid, market strategist at Deutsche Bank.

The euro also fell to $1.10035 on Monday, its lowest in almost three weeks, on fears Brexit could undermine the European project. It recovered to $1.1033 on Tuesday.

Investors’ shift towards safer ground on Tuesday pushed the dollar lower against the yen, down almost 1% on the day back below 112 yen.


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