Global markets track Asian slump amid tech crackdown and Covid-19 concerns

London/Singapore — Global stocks fell on Thursday, tracking a slump in Asia amid a widening crackdown on the tech sector in China and concern over the strength of the country’s economic recovery, while oil prices also sagged on supply uncertainty.

The pace of economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on inflation and central bank policymaking continues to drive markets, with the US Federal Reserve overnight signalling no immediate plans to raise rates.

All eyes will now be on the European Central Bank later in the session, where it is set to release a strategy update that could see it allow for higher inflation.

The MSCI’s leading index of global stocks was down 0.4% in early European trading, tracking a 1.6% decline in the equivalent index of Asia shares outside Japan to its lowest level since mid-May.

That had been fuelled by China’s move to rein in its tech giants, with the most recent being recently US-listed Didi, which was ordered to pull its app from stores.

Despite its drop, the global index remains in a broad trading range established since late June and just off its record high. The Stoxx Europe 600, a broad gauge of Europe’s biggest companies, meanwhile, was down 0.9%.

In tandem with the tech crackdown, guidance towards rate cuts from Chinese policymakers has also spooked some investors by highlighting softness in China’s economy — weak loan growth and slow demand — which threatens the pace of the global recovery.

The Chinese cabinet said on Wednesday policymakers will use timely cuts in the bank reserve requirement ratio (RRR) to support the real economy, especially small firms.

The yield on 10-year Chinese sovereign debt posted its sharpest fall in nearly a year on Thursday, dropping 7.1 basis points to 2.9996%, the lowest since August.

Global bond prices more broadly continued to rally, with the US 10-year up four basis points, extending price moves seen earlier in the week and leading to a “serious debate” about their cause, said Deutsche Bank analyst Jim Reid.

Some consider the move a sign the market is re-pricing the potential for the economy to be hit by secular stagnation after the pandemic, while others point to technical drivers including reduced supply from the Fed and higher demand to buy.

In currency markets, the dollar edged lower against a basket of major peers, down 0.2%. Cryptocurrencies were sold on fresh negative comments from Chinese policymakers and bitcoin fell to a one-week low.

Oil remained under pressure amid a wave of new Covid-19 infections sweeping Asia and the world and anxiety about a rise in supply after the collapse of talks among producers.

Brent futures were last down 0.9% at $72.77 a barrel, while US crude fell 1.1%.