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Updated 07:14 14/12/18

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FTSE 100 hits two-year low as global recession fears grow


Liam Sheasby

Liam Sheasby, News Editor
6 Dec 2018, 4:17 p.m.

The FTSE 100 Index is down 2.49% today at 6,749.68 following sell-offs in the energy and mining sectors, as well as reservations about the state of international banking. The FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange) opened at 6,840 and fell steadily all morning, before hitting a low of 2.55% and showing some signs of resistance to further selling.

The last time that the FTSE 100 reached this level was early December 2016, but as veteran economist David Buik points out on Twitter, the losses mean that the FTSE has not grown in nearly two decades.

In comparison, from the image below, you can see that the S&P 500 share index in America has performed far stronger since the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

There are certain anomalies to consider, of course, including the fact that 1999’s figure may have been higher than the average for that period, as well as 2003 and 2009 both being awful years for the FTSE. With these notions in mind the FTSE 100 is currently about right, based on averages, but that still doesn’t detract from the fact that for the past 18 years the FTSE has barely made any ground.

Since opening, the American markets are also down – the Dow Jones opened 420 points down from yesterday’s close and then fell to -525 points. This 2.1% loss was near-matched by the S&P 500, which dropped by 1.7%, taking the Standard and Poor index into negative territory for the year, and the Nasdaq is currently down by 1.4% - with the likes of Apple bearing the brunt of losses again.

The fear of recession is at the heart of these worries; new figures show that America’s trade deficit is growing ever-wider, especially in relation to China. The irony of implementing trade tariffs to punish Chinese exports to the US is that US exports to China are also suffering, while many Chinese products and parts are a necessity in the USA and are being bought regardless of the tariffs. Data from the Commerce Department said that the US/China trade deficit grew by 1.7% last month putting it at $55.5 billion – the highest trading deficit since October 2008.

The other concern – a trusted indicator of looming recession – is the yield curve for Treasury bonds. The US yield curve has, finally, swung into an inverted position. This means that the yields on the short-term bonds are more beneficial than the longer term. Reaching this position usually suggests that the US Treasury is having a hard time shifting the bonds, which in itself is a sign of low confidence in the government and the wider economy.

It’s not just the UK and USA suffering though. The European and Asian markets are all suffering, with the DAX in Germany and the CAC in France both down around 2.5% today. This is weighing on the Stoxx 600 exchange, which like the FTSE 100 has sunk to a two-year low point. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite is also down 2% since trading began.

China has been rocked by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO at telecoms company Huawei. Canadian officials arrested Ms Meng in Vancouver over the possibility that Huawei violated sanctions against Iran. Shortly after the arrest, the Commerce Ministry’s spokesman Gao Feng announced China would “immediately implement the consensus both sides already reached on agricultural products, energy, autos, and other specific items.” China’s swift reaction may calm investors, who are concerned that the arrest and potential misbehaviour from Huawei will rile up the United States further.

While the market turmoil is going on, oil prices have sunk to $58.60 a barrel of Brent crude. OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) is currently meeting in Vienna to discuss the lowering prices and the falling share values.

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