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Growth fears hit stocks, oil, emerging markets

Reuters , Thursday 20 Aug 2015
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Stocks, oil and emerging market currencies fell on Thursday as fading expectations for an imminent U.S. interest rate hike stoked anxiety about the health of the global economy.

Shares in Asia hit a two-year low, German stocks extended losses in what is shaping up to be their worst month in over three years, and British stocks hit their lowest since January. U.S. stocks SPc1 were set to fall as well.

Pressure on emerging market currencies intensified as investors fretted over Chinese as well as U.S. growth. Turkey's lira hit a record low and Kazakhstan's tenge plunged some 25 percent after authorities abandoned its peg and let it float.

"Asian shares tumbled, pressured by lower oil prices and a slowdown in China ... (and) the latest Fed minutes raised concerns over the strength of the global economy, questioning whether rates will be raised next month," said David Papier at ETX Capital in London.

Minutes from last month's Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting showed officials in broad agreement that the U.S. economy was nearing the point where interest rates should move higher. But they also noted lagging inflation and a weak global economy posed too big a risk to commit to a rates "lift off".

The FTSEuroFirst index of 300 leading European shares fell 1.3 percent .FTEU3 and Germany's DAX fell 1.2 percent .GDAXI to its lowest since January, putting it down about 6.7 percent so far this month.

Britain's FTSE 100 share index, which has a heavy weighting of resources and energy stocks, fell 0.5 percent to 6,370 points .FTSE. It is also at a seven-month low.

In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS shed 1.7 percent to a two-year low, marking the fifth consecutive day of losses in what is its longest losing streak this year.

Japan's Nikkei .N225 fell 0.9 percent.

U.S. Treasury yields fell and money market futures rolled back expectations of a rate rise in September.

The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yielded 2.09 percent, having declined from an eight-month high of 2.50 percent in June.

"Financial markets today are digesting the July 28-29 minutes, and the collective wisdom seems to be that they are on the dovish side," said Rob Carnell, chief international economist at ING.

The dollar also lost its edge against other major currencies, falling to a three-week low against the yen JPY= before recovering to 124.00 yen, while the euro rose to $1.1173 EUR=.

Tenge fever

Fears that growth in China, which carried the global economy following the 2008 international financial crisis, is slowing over the long term are affecting riskier assets around the world.

Commodities and emerging markets were among the hardest-hit by fear of slowdown in Chinese demand. Those worries were exacerbated by Wednesday's Fed minutes, which suggested policymakers are increasingly cautious on the U.S. growth and inflation outlook.

U.S. crude oil CLc1, was down 50 cents at $40.30 a barrel by 1030 GMT, after hitting a new 6-1/2-year low of $40.21.

Brent crude futures LCOc1, the global oil benchmark, were down 75 cents at $46.41 a barrel.

Falls in oil and other commodity prices hit many resource-exporting emerging economies hard, and they have already suffered shocks from capital outflows as the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates some time this year looms larger.

MSCI's emerging market index .MSCIEF set a four-year low, having fallen 22 percent from this year's high hit in April and coming within a stone's throw of its Oct 2011 trough.

"Markets are nervous of risks and investors are pulling funds out of emerging economies and resource exporters," said Daisuke Uno, chief strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.

In emerging market currencies, the Turkish lira TRYTOM=D3 briefly touched 3.0 per dollar as political uncertainty and conflict focused in the country's southeast undermined investor sentiment.

The Kazakh tenge plunged to 257 per dollar KZT= from around 197 after the central bank scrapped its trading band in another sign of the "currency wars" spreading across emerging markets.

On Thursday, Greece made a 3.2 billion euro payment to the European Central Bank on a maturing government bond, tapping cash from its first disbursement of bailout money, a senior government official said.

Gold XAU= hit one-month highs.

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