Global services growth geared down a notch in June, data showed on Monday, supporting the view in financial markets that emerging and developed economies are set to cool off through the second half of the year.
The reports followed a series of similar health-checks on global manufacturing last week which told a similar story and which together could stoke smouldering fears of a double-dip recession in some developed economies.
China's services sector growth slowed to its weakest in 15 months and the surveys showed a similar slowdown from heady rates across Europe, where governments are taking the hatchet to budgets and where consumer spending is already lacklustre.
The euro zone debt crisis and an associated intensified tightening of fiscal policy in a number of countries is having a dampening impact on economic activity across the region, said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight.
The reports followed news on Friday that the U.S. economy shed 125,000 jobs in June, the largest decline since October, showing the world's largest economy is failing to accelerate on its own as government stimulus fades.
World stocks have tumbled 13 percent over the past two months on fears that the world recovery from the worst recession in generations is faltering, although a U.S. market holiday left them directionless on Monday.
HSBC said its Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for China's services sector -- which unlike most developed economies, represents less than half of its output -- fell to a 15-month low of 55.6 in June from 56.4.
Although that was well above the threshold of 50 that separates expansion from contraction, the loss of momentum, which was also evident in manufacturing, provided more evidence that the Chinese government's tightening campaign is biting.
A similar services index for the U.S., due for release on Tuesday after the Independence Day holiday, is also expected to slip.
V or W?
A separate report showed British services growth slowed in June, also held back by subdued new business and a record monthly drop in confidence.
The CIPS/Markit Services PMI fell for the third time in four months and more than expected to 54.4, a 10-month low, triggering widespread concern among analysts.
It is a shockingly weak result for the proponents of a V-shaped recovery in the UK, said Lena Komileva, head of G7 market economics at Tullett Prebon.
This is the beginning of a W-shaped scenario as the survey clearly shows the recovery momentum has peaked.
Markit also reported that its comparable euro zone services PMI fell to 55.5 in June from a 33-month high in May, in part thanks to a slowdown in orders for new business.
While that was also at a level pointing to relatively strong growth, most economists expect the quarter just ended to be the peak for this year, with the Reuters consensus showing 0.3 percent quarterly growth for the remainder of this year.
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said on Sunday he did not believe at all that Europe was facing a double-dip recession, maintaining that budget cuts would help cement Europe's economic recovery.
But economists polled by Reuters three weeks ago, before the latest global slowdown concerns intensified, were already putting the chances of a double-dip recession in the euro area at about one in four.
Uncertainty over the health of the world economy has also pushed back expectations for when major central banks in the developed world will deliver their first interest rate hike from ultra-low levels.
Wall Street dealers polled by Reuters on Friday expect no Federal Reserve interest rate hike this year, although they only ascribed a median 15 percent chance of a double-dip recession in the U.S. [FED/R]
Interactive graphic on the risks of a double-dip recesssion: r.reuters.com/kuv45m
(Additional reporting by Alan Wheatley in Beijing; Editing by Mike Peacock)