Fears that the United States may be in a recession reverberated around the world Monday, sending stock markets diving from Frankfurt, Germany...
FRANKFURT, Germany — Amid fears that the United States may be in a recession, the decline in stock markets accelerated this morning as exchanges opened across Asia.
Markets in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney all fell farther in the opening hours of trading today than they had all day on Monday.
The Hong Kong market plunged another 8 percent by early afternoon after tumbling 5.49 percent on Monday. In Tokyo, the Nikkei dropped 5 percent, hitting a low not seen since September 2005 and facing its worst two-day drop in 17 years on concern global growth is faltering.
The fears of a recession roiled markets from Bombay to Frankfurt on Monday, puncturing the hopes of many investors that Europe and Asia would be able to sidestep an American downturn.
Most Read Business Stories
- 6 Dr. Seuss books won't be published for racist images
- Frontier cancels flight, citing maskless passengers
- Biden vows enough vaccine for all US adults by end of May
- Amazon sued by Black cloud-computing manager over alleged racial discrimination and sexual harassment
- Texas becomes biggest US state to lift COVID-19 mask mandate
And in a sign that the United States could join the sell-off today, trading in stock index futures pointed to a substantial decline when markets reopen on Wall Street after being closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
The angst about the United States belies the popular theory that Europe and Asia are not as dependent on the U.S. economy as they once were, in part because they trade more with each other.
The theory, known as decoupling, has been used to explain why economies like China and Germany have kept growing robustly, even as the United States has slowed.
“The market is not at all convinced about decoupling, and I think the market is probably right,” said Thomas Mayer, the chief European economist at Deutsche Bank in London. “When you look at it more closely, we’re suffering from the same issues.”
Overseas markets had largely avoided the sell-off that has caused steep declines recently in the United States, but investors Monday reacted with what many analysts described as panic to the multiplying signs of weakness in the American economy.
The sell-off was evenly distributed from east to west, with indexes falling in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Mumbai. Stocks followed suit in the Western Hemisphere.
Shares of banks led the decline in many countries, underscoring that the subprime crisis continues to hobble the global financial system.
A big German state bank, WestLB, said Monday it would report a loss of $1.44 billion in 2007 because of its exposure to deteriorating mortgage assets.
“There is indeed some panic,” Mayer said. “What we’re seeing, in Europe and Asia, is that the markets are pricing in a recession.”
Investors were scarcely comforted by President Bush’s announcement Friday of an economic-stimulus package of as much as $145 billion. It could include tax rebates of $500 to $800 for individuals.
But Bush’s “shot in the arm,” economists said, did not convince the rest of the world that the United States will escape a recession, or that it will either.
In reference to Monday’s sell-off, Jeanie Mamo, a White House spokeswoman, said: “We don’t comment on daily market moves. We’re confident that the global economy will continue to grow and that the U.S. economy will return to stronger growth with the economic policies the president called for.”
Congressional leaders Monday acknowledged how serious the sell-off was and said they may have to rethink the size and content of the stimulus.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘panicky,’ but you can’t look at the size of these [losses] and not be extremely nervous,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., a former investment banker.
He cautioned that policymakers should not be chasing the markets, trying to reverse losses already in the books.
The global turmoil will put even more pressure on the European Central Bank, which has charted a different course from the Federal Reserve by warning that it might raise interest rates to curb inflation, rather than cut them, as the Fed has, to ward off a recession.
Mayer and others predict the bank will be forced into an about-face in coming months.
In Europe, the housing market, after a long boom, is cooling off in several countries, notably Britain, Spain and Ireland.
That will depress the growth rate in those countries, which are among the region’s economic pacesetters.
European banks continue to make unwelcome disclosures about write-downs of mortgage assets, even if the losses are not as dire as those reported by Citigroup or Merrill Lynch. Bank loans across Europe are being constrained, according to a recent survey by the European Central Bank.
While Asia has been less buffeted by the U.S. credit crisis than Europe, the Bank of China appears vulnerable, with analysts predicting it will have to write down the value of its American mortgage holdings.
Investors in Asia had been in a state of denial about a possible recession in the United States, said Adrian Mowat, JPMorgan’s chief strategist in Asia.
But now, he said, many believe “there’s no debate about it.” The only question, he added is “how long and deep.”
And no matter how many bridges, roads, and power plants China builds, or how many new cars India sells, a downturn in the United States will ripple across Asia’s economies, experts said.
“If the United States consumer quits buying things, it is going to hurt in Asia,” said Deborah Schuller, an Asia regional credit officer for Moody’s Investors Service.
Material from The Washington Post was included in this report.