For global markets, the new year is off to a bad start. With weak Chinese economic data and heightened geopolitical tensions in the Middle East weighing them down, European shares followed their Asian counterparts into the red Monday — the first trading day of 2016.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 plummeted over 3 percent at the open and was last trading down 2.3 percent. Meanwhile, Germany’s DAX, France’s CAC 40, and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 were down 3.3 percent, 2 percent, and 1.7 percent respectively, despite better-than-expected improvement in the eurozone’s manufacturing sector in December.
Meanwhile, U.S. stock futures were down about 1.5 percent, suggesting a weak start for the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq indexes.
“It might be a new year as far as the calendar is concerned, but the market seems unwilling to be taking a fresh view,” Tony Cross, a market analyst at U.K’s Trustnet Direct, told the Guardian. “A degree of volatility was probably to be expected this morning as normal trading conditions resume, but it appears that the big sell-off is being driven largely by the overnight news out of Asia, rather than any New Year’s hangover of the so-called Santa rally we saw start less than two weeks ago.”
Overnight, Asian markets slumped rapidly in reaction to fresh evidence of weak manufacturing in China. China's factory activity contracted for the tenth straight month in December and at a sharper pace than in November, the Caixin Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which measures industrial activity in private and small enterprises, released Monday, showed.
The weak data dashed hopes that the world’s second-largest economy might finally be on a firm footing, and trading in China was suspended after markets fell more than 7 percent, triggering new “circuit breakers” designed to limit volatility.
In Europe, a slight uptick in oil prices, caused by heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran — both powerful members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — failed to offset concerns about a slowdown in demand in emerging economies. As a result, shares in mining companies were hit hard, with Glencore falling 6.7 percent and Anglo American shedding 8.4 percent.
PMI data for manufacturing in eurozone economies, which came in at 53.2 in December — higher than a 52.8 reading recorded in November — also failed to cheer wary investors Monday.