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China fears keep markets on edge as stocks rally

Saturday, August 29, 2015 - 07:20
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Asian stocks extended the biggest monthly decline in more than three years after Federal Reserve officials signalled they're prepared to raise interest rates even amid turmoil in Chinese markets.

[NEW YORK] Top global markets ended the week on Friday largely recovered from China-induced panic selling, but market watchers remain worried the turmoil in the world's number two economy will drag down global growth.

After a bout of violent selloffs, the final tally for stocks was deceptively benign. US and European equity markets actually mustered gains for the week, while the Shanghai index finished down just 0.79 per cent.

Yet worries about China kept enthusiasm at bay, as investors pondered how slower growth there would affect slumping commodities, such as oil and copper, as well as the economies of its Asian neighbors and the US and other trading partners.

"There still does not seem to be the macro foundations for indices to fully recover from their corrections, as concerns over China and uncertainty over Fed rate hikes continue to linger," said IG Markets analyst Angus Nicholson.

On Friday, Moody's slashed its 2016 growth forecast for leading G-20 economies to 2.8 per cent from 3.1 per cent, predicting contractions in Brazil and Russia and lower demand for manufactured goods in Korea and Japan due to China.

"Slower growth in China makes a significant rebound in commodity prices in the near term unlikely," said Moody's senior vice-president Marie Diron.

"A more prolonged period of low commodity prices will lead to muted export revenues and investment for commodity-exporting G-20 economies."

US Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer told CNBC it was "too early to tell" whether the markets turmoil sparked by China has lessened the argument for a long-expected increase in the federal funds rate.

"The concern is that there are a lot of countries influenced by trade with China," Fischer said.

"East Asia is particularly associated with that. The question is whether interactions among those countries will amount jointly to something that would have an impact on us."

INVESTORS 'EXHAUSTED'

The market's brutal swings wore on investor psyche. The most violent moves came on "Black Monday," after the Shanghai bourse plunged 8.5 per cent.

Leading European markets fell at least 4.5 per cent and the Dow dumped 1,000 points in a short stretch before recovering somewhat.

But after the stunning losses, markets turned around, helped by an interest rate cut and more apparent official share-buying efforts in China, and strong US economic data, especially a report showing much better-than-expected 3.7 per cent growth for the second quarter.

Among major markets, Japan's Nikkei 225 finished down 1.54 per cent for the week, while Hong Kong dropped 3.56 per cent.

But London's benchmark FTSE 100 index added 0.97 per cent, the CAC 404 in Paris 0.95 per cent, and Frankfurt's DAX 30 1.72 per cent. In the US, the S&P 500 rose 0.91 per cent over a week earlier.

Still, China's markets were still nearly 40 per cent down from their July peak, and that represents huge investor losses that are already seen turning into more pain on the streets.

Many analysts see increased strains on China's financial system from the share market losses, and a possible significant slump in consumer spending.

Hugh Johnson of Hugh Johnson Advisors said investors were "exhausted" at the gyrations as they try to prepare for what could come next.

"The message is you should worry about China, but you should not over-worry about China," Johnson said.

Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare said nothing was cleared up by the end-week recovery.

"The speed at which the sell-off and the rebound occurred has left everyone grappling to explain why it happened, what it means, and what comes next. No explanation is wholly sufficient," Mr O'Hare said.

AFP