Global equity markets slumped to a three-month low on Thursday while the dollar and benchmark sovereign bond yields slipped, after a sharp decline in Chinese exports revived concerns about the health of the world’s second-largest economy.
Stocks on Wall Street fell almost 1 percent, and in Europe a bit more, following data that showed Chinese imports in dollar terms were back in contraction territory and exports dropped by a sharper-than-expected 10 percent.
The disappointing trade figures pointed to weaker demand both at home and aboard while deepening concerns over the latest depreciation in China’s yuan currency, which hit a fresh six-year low against a firming U.S. dollar.
“If the Chinese economy is struggling it is a problem for the global economy and you’re seeing that reflected in the capital markets, whether it be the strength in the dollar or the volatility in equities,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.
A hard landing in China, if that were to occur, would pose a bigger problem to the global economy than a “hard exit” by Britain from the European Union because of China’s greater economic size and trade profile, Arone said.
China concerns could also deter the Federal Reserve from raising U.S. interest rates in December as minutes released Wednesday from a September policy meeting suggested, he said.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading regional shares fell 1.1 percent to 1,321.50, while MSCI’s all-country world stock index of equity performance in 46 countries declined 0.84 percent to lows last seen on July 12.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 163.52 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,980.68. The S&P 500 slid 18.62 points, or 0.87 percent, to 2,120.56 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 49.70 points, or 0.95 percent, to 5,189.32.
The dollar tumbled from a seven-month high as risk appetite took a turn for the worse on the soft Chinese data, which rattled markets that expect the Fed to boost rates by year-end.
The U.S. currency also fell from a more than two-month high against the yen and Swiss franc, two safe-haven currencies that benefit in times of political or financial stress.