World stock markets extended losses yesterday as relief over a US debt deal gave way to renewed fears about weakening economic growth and the eurozone debt crisis, sending ‘safe-haven’ gold to record highs.
The threat of a double dip recession in the US loomed after data showed the US service sector grew at a snail’s pace in July.
This added to analyst concerns that the eurozone debt crisis remains a real threat to Italy and Spain and that sluggish growth in the eurozone could take hold.
At closing, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index of top shares slid 2.34% to 5,584.51 points.
In Frankfurt, the Dax fell 2.30% to 6,640.59 points and in Paris the CAC 40 dropped 1.93% to 3,454.94 points.
In foreign exchange trade, the euro was higher at $1.4299 while gold hit a record $1,672.95 an ounce before closing for the day at $1,669.25.
“The fear is that US austerity measures will provide another headwind to already sluggish economic growth ... Meanwhile, despite numerous attempts the European authorities have still not done enough to satisfy a sceptical bond market and the (eurozone) debt crisis looks far from over.”
The European markets were only down slightly in midday trading, but the poor data from the US service sector quickly sent share prices sharply lower.
Service sector data from the Institute for Supply Management index showed non-manufacturing activity in the US had dropped to 52.7 last month, just barely above the 50 no-growth level.
While the entertainment and finance sectors reported growth, the health care, utilities and construction sectors contracted, ISM said.
In Europe meanwhile, bond markets steadied as the prime ministers of Europe’s third and fourth biggest economies responded to renewed pressure over their strained public finances.
Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain each tried to send strong signals that they were addressing the deepening crisis with utmost seriousness.
Ratings agency Standard’s and Poors meanwhile said they were worried about the consequences of the debt crisis on the eurozone growth, citing discouraging data from recent days.
Recent data showed “a worrisome picture for growth” and reinforced the “view that the eurozone may be experiencing a more prolonged period of weak economic growth than initially anticipated,” S&P said.
In New York, in midday trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.11% to 11,853.37, the broader S&P 500 slid 0.04% to 1,254.57, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.16% to 2,673.54.
Investors there were unmoved by news that both Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch affirmed the US’s top-notch credit rating after the 11th-hour deal to avert a default, looking more to warnings about a possible rating downgrade if Washington does not deliver more.