London and New York stocks sank on Friday after US President Donald Trump lashed out at China over the coronavirus crisis, bringing back bad memories of a damaging standoff between both countries over trade.
The eurozone’s key equity markets were shut for a public holiday as were several exchanges in Asia.
Investor nerves were tested further by a weak bottom line for Amazon even after the retail giant’s revenues received a boost from online shopping under the coronavirus lockdown.
“Global markets continue to languish in what Amazon highlighted, that is, top-line growth is not translating into profit growth,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp.
Fellow tech giant Apple, reporting quarterly results, painted a similar picture of rising revenues but slipping profits.
Shares in Amazon were sharply lower in the late New York morning, but Apple managed to recover after plunging at the opening bell.
The dollar, meanwhile, fell because of worries about the economic health of the United States, and on expectations of further monetary easing by the Fed, analysts said.
– ‘An eternity ago’ –
Investors were spooked by comments from Trump indicating he could hit China with additional tariffs over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming he had seen evidence linking a Wuhan lab to the contagion.
“Trump sharpening his rhetoric against China is unnerving investors, as his team look into retaliatory measures over the coronavirus outbreak,” said City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta.
“The China trade war seems like an eternity ago after coronavirus has dominated market movements with such intensity over recent weeks.
“However, threats of more tariffs from Trump have hit a nerve… and (are) adding to the downbeat sentiment heading into the weekend,” she added.
Investors in Britain took their cue from earlier losses in Tokyo and Sydney in Asia, where most bourses were closed.
– ‘Stinky data’ –
London’s FTSE 100 index had already tanked Thursday on mounting evidence that COVID was slamming the global economy and investors “reacted to some stinky data from Europe and the US”, in the words of Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.
Sentiment was also hit after Spain said Friday that its gross domestic product (GDP) was projected to fall by 9.2 percent in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, while the unemployment rate would reach 19 percent.
The gloomy forecast compared with two percent growth recorded last year.
In Asia and the Pacific, Japanese and Australian stocks tumbled, with traders tracking Thursday’s sell-off on Wall Street. Tokyo was down nearly three percent at the close.
The sell-off comes at the end of an otherwise bright week for equities fuelled by signs that coronavirus infections and deaths are easing around the world while governments begin easing lockdown restrictions that have strangled their economies.
Oil prices rose as the latest production cut agreement between OPEC and others went into force but then turned mixed later in the session.
There was some support from Norway, western Europe’s biggest oil producer, saying Wednesday it will cut oil production to the end of the year to help stabilise slumping prices hit by a supply glut and a collapse in demand sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.