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US default fears, rising oil prices hound global stocks

·4-min read
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have warned of the dire consequences of not raising the debt ceiling, and markets are growing nervous (AFP/Kevin Dietsch)

Stock markets tumbled on Tuesday as traders tracked a strengthening dollar, high oil prices, the political gridlock in Germany and rising fears about a possible US debt default.

Brent crude oil briefly jumped above $80 a barrel for the first time in almost three years on expectations for surging demand and concerns about tight supplies as the world slowly emerges from the pandemic crisis.

Wall Street finished decisively lower, with the S&P 500 losing two percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq falling nearly three percent as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged Congress to quickly raise the debt ceiling to keep the US government from defaulting.

"The prospect of higher energy prices, fueling inflation, and rises in bond yields that appear to be preempting tighter monetary policy by central banks, have prompted widespread selling across global stock markets," said Chris Beauchamp, analyst at IG.

There were "few safe havens," he said.

Analysts attributed disproportionate declines in tech stocks to rising Treasury bond yields, as higher interest rates generally hit tech companies because of their greater reliance on debt to fund growth.

Chief Market Strategist at TD Ameritrade JJ Kinahan credited the jump in yields to "a combination of uncertainty on Capitol Hill, coupled with all but certainty that borrowing costs will increase."

Republicans in Washington have blocked a Democratic move to raise the US borrowing limit, and Yellen warned that without an agreement, the United States is likely to run out of cash around October 18.

Observers believe that would spark a massive financial crisis, but Republicans say they will not pay for Democrats' spending plans.

The brewing crisis comes as Democrats fight to pass President Joe Biden's multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure and social spending bills, with party infighting fueling concerns that the president's agenda could end up stillborn.

Amid the turmoil the US government could shutdown later this week unless Congress approves a temporary budget measure by Thursday.

Meanwhile in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, was in focus as it headed for weeks, if not months, of protracted coalition haggling following weekend elections.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have insisted on trying to form a government even after losing to the Social Democrats in a tight race.

The German DAX and French CAC indexes were down by about two percent, while London was off 0.5 percent.

- Energy crunch -

In Britain, army tanker drivers were put on standby to deliver petrol as the country battles a fuel crisis.

The British pound dipped more than one percent against the dollar to its lowest level since January, then recovered.

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey hinted Monday that the central bank would refrain from aggressive monetary policy tightening despite elevated inflation.

"The pound took a pounding after governor Bailey implied that the BoE will not aggressively tighten its belt, as the UK is facing stagflation risks," ThinkMarkets analyst Fawad Razaqzada told AFP.

China was also facing an energy crunch, with Goldman Sachs lowering its annual growth forecast for the world's second-biggest economy.

The country has also been in the spotlight over concerns about the possible collapse of troubled developer Evergrande.

- Key figures at 2045 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 1.6 percent at 34,299.99 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 2.0 percent at 4,352.63 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 2.8 percent at 14,546.68 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,028.10 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 2.1 percent at 15,260.70 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 2.2 percent at 6,505.50 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 2.6 percent at 4,058.82 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 30,183.96 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.2 percent at 24,500.39 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,602.22 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1683 from $1.1700 at 2050 GMT on Monday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3537 from $1.3704

Euro/pound: UP at 86.26 pence from 85.35 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.48 yen from 110.01 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.8 percent at $78.10 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.6 percent at $74.28 per barrel


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