Downbeat Data Drops Global Markets

Shares on Thursday dropped while safe-haven currencies were up after downbeat data on China’s economic activity and in parts of Europe highlighted how fragile the economic recovering remains globally. It raised concerns over the withdrawal of central banks’ monetary stimulus programs.

Shrinkage of China’s manufacturing set the tone of gloom that was then reinforced by new data that showed a stall in activity that was not expected across most of the euro zone.

The escalating problems inside Kiev, the capital of Ukraine hurt developing stocks and the emerging market Index dropped by 0.8%.

The world equity index by MSCI, which tracks the shares in 45 different countries, was off by 0.5% to a low of six days.

In Europe, the FTSE Eurfirst 300, the region’s benchmark lost 0.5%, with mixed data from Germany on the PMI. The data from Germany, the powerhouse in the region, barely did anything to lift the gloomy mood.

The Purchasing Managers Index from Markit’s Composite for the euro region fell in February, although it stayed just below the January 31 month end high. France’s service sector contracted at its fastest rated in the past nine months.

One analyst in France said the outcome of data was far weaker than had been expected and shows clearly that business sentiment has not gained momentum, as the growth headwinds remain alive.

Earlier in the day, stocks in Asia tumbled following the preliminary report from the PMI from HSBC that showed a low of seven months, falling more into the shrinkage territory.

One Hong Kong strategist said that it would be expected that Beijing will act if the slowdown in its economy increases from this point, as they will not be able to proceed with their agenda on reforms without being able to maintain a minimum level of growth.

The new data from the second largest consumer of oil in the world dragged crude to below $110 per barrel.

The franc in Switzerland, which is backed by the solid economic fundamentals in Switzerland and usually does well during market jitters, was up 0.3% versus the U.S. dollar. The yen, another currency considered as a safe-haven was also up.

The dollar remained firm versus most major currencies following the latest policy meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve that it would keep trimming back its program of asset purchases.