Volatility in commodity markets, a further drop in oil prices and uncertainty ahead of the release of minutes of last month's U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy meeting hurt investor sentiment Tuesday, dragging global stocks down.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index led the stock market rout with a 2.4 percent drop. Shares of Japanese banks were dragged lower over persisting worries about negative interest rates, which were introduced by the Bank of Japan in January. Mizuho Financial Group’s shares dropped 4.8 percent, while Japan Post Bank fell 3.6 percent Tuesday.
The yen, meanwhile, benefited from its safe-haven status, and rose against the dollar. At 5:49 a.m. EDT, the Japanese currency was trading at 110.37 per dollar, after appreciating to 110.30 — its strongest level since October 2014.
Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s Kospi Composite index closed down 0.8 percent, while India’s S&P BSE Sensex plunged 2 percent. However, China’s Shanghai Composite index, which opened after Monday’s break, bucked the trend, ending the day up 1.4 percent.
“Asian markets are down due to the falling oil price and investors in the region are also waiting for the FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] minutes. They are now taking profit ahead of the FOMC,” Andri Zakarias, an analyst with BNI Securities in Jakarta, told Reuters. The minutes of the Fed's policy meeting are scheduled to be released Wednesday.
In Europe, Stoxx 600 index plunged 1.9 percent in early trade, tracking overnight losses in Asia and the United States. Investors in the region are also digesting fresh Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data for the 10-nation eurozone, which, on Tuesday, was revised down to 53.1 for March from the flash estimate of 53.7.
“The eurozone economy failed to show any significant gain in momentum in March. With the PMI barely rising from February’s 13-month low, the region looks to have grown by just 0.3 percent again in the first quarter,” Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit — which compiles the PMI figures — said in a statement. “Hopes are pinned on the economy being rejuvenated by the ECB’s [European Central Bank] more assertive policy initiatives.”
A wave of risk aversion was also reflected in the performance of the U.K.’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX, and France’s CAC 40, which dropped 1.5 percent, 2.6 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively, in early trade.
Meanwhile, stock futures for the S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow Jones were all down over 0.7 percent, pointing to an opening loss for U.S. indexes.