Stocks slide, dollar shines as recession fears deepen

Stocks slide, dollar shines as recession fears deepen
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TOKYO (July 6): Asian stocks slipped and the dollar stood by a two-decade high on the euro on Wednesday (July 6) as investors' fears deepened that the continent is leading the world into a recession, while oil and European equity futures attempted to steady after a slide.

Brent crude futures bounced 1.4% in morning trade to US$104.18 (about RM460.92) a barrel, nursing its wounds after a 9.5% drop to a two-and-a-half-month low on Tuesday with worries that a global growth slowdown is going to sap demand.

MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan fell 0.6%. Japan's Nikkei fell 0.88%, on course for its first loss of the week. S&P 500 futures fell 0.2%, though Euro STOXX 50 futures bounced 1.8%.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 0.42%, while Chinese blue-chip CSI 300 fell 0.7%, dragged by worries about new Covid-19 cases in Shanghai risking fresh restrictions.

Overnight Europe's STOXX 600 Index dropped 2% and the euro plunged more than 1.5% to US$1.0236, its lowest since late 2002 as talk of gas rationing spooked traders.

"The drumbeat is getting louder and louder about recession risk," said Jason Teh, the chief investment officer of Vertium Asset Management in Sydney.

"Right now, defence is the name of the game. It's the best strategy right now because in a recession a lot of things can fall out of bed."

Uncertainty over Europe's gas supply has set prices rocketing. Benchmark Dutch gas prices have doubled since the middle of June and rose 7% overnight to a four-month high.

Year-ahead baseload power in Germany hit a record high. Investors are nervous about continuity of supply after the Nord Stream pipeline, which carries Russian gas to Germany, shuts for 10 days for maintenance from July 11. 

In Tokyo, shares in commodities trading firms Mitsui & Co and Mitsubishi Corp dropped more than 5% after former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev threatened oil and gas supply cuts to Japan.

Sterling was also pinned by a two-year low and not helped by the latest political crisis to hit UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government, with the resignation of his finance and health secretaries questioning his longevity as a leader.

After touching US$1.1899 overnight, the currency steadied at US$1.1964 in Asia.

A change in leader, or speculation about it, could lend support but it is weighed heavily by an economic outlook that a new leader is unlikely to shift.

"The UK is in danger of being the slowest-growing major advanced economy next year, with the highest inflation rate and the biggest current account deficit," said Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes. "That's quite a collection, and it represents a clear threat to the pound."

Elsewhere, the dollar also stood tall, holding the risk-sensitive Antipodean currencies near two-year lows and dunking spot gold prices to their lowest this year. The Aussie was last huddled at US$0.6810, having slid 1% overnight to a two-year trough of US$0.6762.

Spot gold was last steady at US$1,771 an ounce after its overnight fall. Safe-haven gold is down about 3% this year, less than the steep losses for equities and bonds.

Investors now await the release of US payroll data on Friday for further signs of whether the economy may fall into a recession.

"A strong payroll figure may temper recession fears briefly, though it will also likely drive up two-year yields and probably won't be regarded as unambiguously positive by the equity investment community," ING's Robert Carnell and Iris Pang wrote in a note on Wednesday morning.

Benchmark US treasury yields were flat on Wednesday, with the 10-year note at 2.8218%.

Bitcoin fell back below the key US$20,000 waterline, falling 2.77% to trade at US$19,855.14.