The New York Stock Exchange. Picture: AFP/JOHANNES EISELE
The New York Stock Exchange. Picture: AFP/JOHANNES EISELE

London — World equity markets slipped on Thursday amid worries about global growth and as investors digested European earnings, while the Swedish krona slumped to its lowest in 17 years and the euro suffered after the release of German data.

The Euro Stoxx 600 lost 0.3% in early trading, with concern over prospects for global growth underscored by weak economic data from South Korea. Energy stocks and a 10% drop in Finnish telecoms equipment maker Nokia dragged down European shares, with a varied bag of earnings for the region’s banks.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, also fell 0.3%.

Asian markets had fallen earlier in the day, losing 0.5% as South Korea’s economy unexpectedly contracted in the first quarter, giving a sharp reminder of the fragility of the world economy beyond the US.

Shanghai’s bourse also fell sharply late in the day, losing more than 2% as other Chinese markets lost ground after attempts by the central bank to temper expectations for further easing of monetary policy. Chinese officials also warned of protracted pressure on economic growth, casting a shadow over hopes for a sustained recovery in the world’s second biggest economy.

Those worries on growth also played out closer to home for European investors, with fears lingering over the state of the German economy after a survey on Wednesday showed German business morale falling.

Amid that weakness, central banks across the world have maintained ultra-loose monetary policy. On Thursday, the Bank of Japan pledged to keep interest rates very low at least until early 2020, even as it retained main policy targets. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei gave a muted response, while the yen also reacted little. The yen was last up about a third of a percent, at ¥111.80 to the dollar.

“You certainly have a common response [from central banks] to a global growth slowdown in terms of monetary policy,” said Peter Schaffrik, head of European rates strategy at RBC Capital Markets. “We haven’t generally seen outright reduction, but it is easing relative to what was previously communicated to, and implied in, the markets.”

There were signs of growing strength in the dollar, which analysts said was partly a symptom of the world’s largest economy maintaining relative strength and others, such as China, faring worse.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major peers, stood at about  at 98.001, near its highest since May 2017, hit on Wednesday.

“The Fed isn’t keen to hike rates, but they are the strongest of the bunch so money will gravitate towards the dollar,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets in London.

Krona and lira

The Swedish krona slumped to its lowest since August 2002, after the central bank said weak inflationary pressures meant a forecast rate hike would come slighter later than planned, holding benchmark borrowing costs unchanged.

The krona sank 1.2% against the euro to 10.65 — on course for its biggest daily drop in more than six months.

Monetary policy also loomed for emerging-markets currencies.  Turkey’s lira weakened against the dollar, losing 0.2% hours before a central bank policy decision that could test its willingness to maintain tight monetary policy and support the currency in the face of recession. The rate decision is due at 11am GMT.

The euro suffered its worst day in more than six weeks, falling 0.6% to a 22-month low following the further signs of flagging growth in Germany. It was last at $1.1141. Also on the agenda for the euro were Spanish elections on Sunday and economic concerns out of Italy.

Brent crude oil rose above $75 a barrel on Thursday for the first time in 2019 in the wake of tightening sanctions on Iran, while gains in US prices were crimped by a surge in US supply.