World stocks drop over worries about global growth, oil prices

SEOUL, South Korea -- Stocks shuddered again Thursday, led by a sharp drop in Hong Kong as it caught up with global market turmoil after Lunar New Year holidays.

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An escalation in tensions between North and South Korea added to a litany of woes for markets that were already flustered by signs of slowing global growth and the slide in oil prices.

KEEPING SCORE: France's CAC 40 slid 3.5 per cent to 3,920.77 and Germany's DAX dropped 2.7 per cent to 8,774.59. Britain's FTSE 100 shed 2.3 per cent to 5,541.02. Futures augured sharp losses on Wall Street. Dow futures sank 1.6 per cent to 15,617.00 and S&P 500 futures fell 1.6 per cent to 1,817.00. The dollar lost 1.8 per cent against the Japanese yen.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "What started in January as mainly China based worries has clearly broadened back out to concerns about global growth," said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital in Sydney. He said five fault lines are driving concerns about the global economy: the malaise in emerging markets, the ongoing concerns about waning growth China, the collapse in oil prices, the strong dollar and fears that the global economy could plunge into a recession because of financial market turmoil.

KOREAS TENSIONS: North Korea on Thursday vowed to immediately deport all South Korean nationals and freeze all South Korean assets at a jointly run factory park in the North, an aggressive response to the South Korean decision to suspend operations at the complex in response to the North's missile and nuclear tests. The Korean peninsula is a potential flashpoint for the U.S. and China. Washington is an ally of South Korea and Beijing is the main backer of North Korea.

ASIA'S DAY: Hong Kong's Hang Seng dived 3.9 per cent to 18,545.80 after opening as much as 5 per cent lower. South Korea's Kospi staged its biggest daily drop in nearly four years, down 2.9 per cent to finish at 1,861.54. The Hong Kong and South Korean markets opened for the first time this week after Lunar New Year holidays. China and Taiwan will reopen on Monday. Japan was closed Thursday for a separate public holiday. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 1 per cent to 4,821.10. Singapore, Thailand, India and New Zealand fell while benchmarks in the Philippines and Indonesia rose.

YELLEN REMARKS: Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen offered no major surprises in prepared remarks released before the start of her two-day Congressional testimony. She reiterated the Fed's confidence that the U.S. economy was on track for stronger growth and a rebound in inflation. At the same time, she cautioned that global weakness and falling financial markets could depress the U.S. economy's growth. That would, in turn, slow the pace of Fed interest rate hikes, she said.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 82 cents to $26.63 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 49 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to close at $27.45 a barrel on Wednesday in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, dropped 44 cents to $30.40 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slid to 111.32 yen from 113.35 yen the previous day. The euro strengthened to $1.1312 from $1.1282.



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