February 9, 2018
Major Asian markets suffered sharp losses on Friday, following another day of steep falls on Wall Street.
In a volatile week for global investors, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slid 3.2% during early trading, while China’s Shanghai Composite tumbled 5%.
Earlier, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 1,000 points for the second time this week.
Sell-offs around the world have been pinned partly on concerns over higher interest rates.
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Elsewhere in Asia on Friday, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng pulled back 3.8%, while South Korea’s Kospi index traded down 1.9% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.2%.
Those losses came as little surprise, with moves in major US markets providing the cue for global investors.
On Thursday, Dow Jones ended 4.2% lower at 23,860, the S&P 500 closed down 3.8%, while the Nasdaq sank 3.9%. European exchanges also headed south on Thursday.
“The return of volatility after two relatively calm days supports the idea there are further losses to come in the days and weeks ahead,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael McCarthy.
Rate rises imminent?
Investors have begun to worry that inflation might rise more quickly than expected, leading policymakers to raise rates, prompting a pull-back from stocks.
On Thursday, the Bank of England seemed to offer support for that view.
The bank left interest rates at 0.5% at its meeting, but said a strengthening economy meant interest rates were likely to rise sooner than the markets were expecting.
Also worrying investors was a government budget proposal announced by US lawmakers, which raises spending caps and could fan inflation.
Bond yields in the US have also risen in recent weeks, typically a signal of higher rates.
Higher interest rates push up borrowing costs for companies and individuals, which can hurt corporate profits and curb economic activity.
At the same time, higher interest rates can make investment alternatives to stocks, such as bonds, more attractive.
The uptick in volatility comes as investors react to the shifting conditions.
Thursday’s declines mean the Dow and S&P 500 have now fallen by more than 10% from the record highs set in January, a threshold analysts call a correction.
Shares in financial, technology and consumer companies led the declines on Thursday, which infected every sector. American Express and Intel were the two biggest losers on the Dow.
Analysts, who have said for months that the financial markets were due a correction after a long period of rising prices, urged calm.
“The latest decline takes us back to where we were 17 November,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, which tracks interest rates.
“We’ve just given back some recent gains, not wiped out anyone’s life savings.”