Global growth jitters rattle world markets

Updated 21 August 2015
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Global growth jitters rattle world markets

PARIS: Global growth jitters have shaken world financial markets with the powerful Chinese economic engine slowing down, the European economy sputtering and the US Federal Reserve unclear about the timing of rate hikes.
The equities sell-offs continued on Friday sending all the Asian markets into steep declines with European and US stocks following in their wake.
"It isn't so much that the world economy is worsening, but that the international context has not improved as hoped," Jean-Louis Mourier, economist at broker Aurel BGC, told AFP.
That global outlook has been dampened not only by China but also by the Russian and some South American economies.
"The recovery in the US and, to a lesser extent, the euro area and Japan will be offset by the ongoing slowdown in China, low or negative growth in Latin America and only a gradual Russian recovery from its recession this year," Marie Diron, senior vice president for credit policy at Moody's, said in a note.
The main concern however weighing on market sentiment is the extent and pace of the economic slowdown in China, which for the last 10 years has been a key driver of global growth.
"Uncertainties over China's slowdown have escalated," banking giant Citi Group said in a note, predicting that growth in the world's second-biggest economy "is likely to remain sluggish."
On Friday a new wave of jitters swept through markets over weak Chinese manufacturing data, with the preliminary reading of Caixin's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) at 47.1 this month — its worst result since March 2009 and significantly below analysts' forecasts.
The International Monetary Fund has forecast China's growth at 6.8 percent this year — compared with 7.4 percent in 2014 — but many analysts have doubts about official Chinese figures.
Nigel Green, CEO of financial consultancy deVere Group, expects the economic concerns to persist at least until the end of the year, when "we will have a clearer view as to the risk of a China economic 'hard landing'."
China's economic woes are also weighing on commodities, where prices have plummeted — hitting the emerging economies hard, especially in Latin America, which depend on exports of minerals.
Brazil, the world's seventh-largest economy, is sinking into recession amid rising inflation and unemployment, a falling currency and a political crisis born of a massive corruption scandal.
Meantime, Europe has yet to take over the lead in growth from slowing emerging economies.
"After an excess of optimism, this is something of a cold shower," said Mourier.
Growth in the euro zone eased slightly from 0.4 percent in the first quarter to 0.3 percent in the second, in large part due to unexpected slowing in France.
Germany improved its quarterly performance, albeit less impressively than anticipated, according to initial estimates published August 14 by Eurostat.
But if recovery hasn't come as quickly in the euro zone as many analysts might have expected, the long-term outlook for the 19-nation bloc remains somewhat encouraging.
Private sector growth in the euro area accelerated in August, according to Markit's closely-watched PMI published Friday, which came in at 54.1 points — up from 53.9 in July — driven mostly by Germany and despite France's stall.
That positive activity may have been aided by other factors.
"The euro is under-valued, and this will help boost the euro zone's recovery," said Green, who also foresees European economies benefiting from depressed oil prices that continued their slide Friday, nearing the key $40 threshold in Asia.
Another source of downward pressure on financial markets is the apparent confusion of analysts struggling to decipher US monetary policy plans.
In the minutes of the last meeting, policy makers at the US Federal Reserve did not provide expected clues into the timing of their decision to raise interest rates -- an absence of clarity that soured investor sentiment.


Russia's Gazprombank freezes accounts of Venezuela's PDVSA - source

Updated 13 min 36 sec ago
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Russia's Gazprombank freezes accounts of Venezuela's PDVSA - source

MOSCOW: Russian lender Gazprombank has decided to freeze the accounts of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and halted transactions with the firm to reduce the risk of the bank falling under U.S. sanctions, a Gazprombank source told Reuters on Sunday.

While many foreign firms have been cutting their exposure to PDVSA since the sanctions were imposed, the fact that a lender closely aligned with the Russian state is following suit is significant because the Kremlin has been among Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s staunchest supporters.

“PDVSA’s accounts are currently frozen. As you’ll understand, operations cannot be carried out,” the source said. Gazprombank did not reply to a Reuters request for a comment.

PDVSA brandished the story as “fake news” on its Twitter account in capital red letters, but did not reply to a request for comment.

Reuters reported this month that PDVSA was telling customers of its joint ventures to deposit oil sales proceeds in its Gazprombank accounts, according to sources and an internal document, in a move to try to sideline fresh U.S. sanctions on PDVSA.

Washington says the sanctions, imposed on Jan. 28, are aimed at blocking Maduro’s access to the country’s oil revenue after opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself interim president and received widespread Western support.

Gazprombank is Russia’s third biggest lender by assets and includes among its shareholders Russian state gas company Gazprom.

The bank has held PDVSA accounts for several years. In 2013, PDVSA said it signed a deal with Gazprombank for $1 billion (£774 million) in financing for the Petrozamora company. The source said that Petrozamora accounts were frozen, too.

Russian officials have said they stand by Maduro and have condemned opposition actions as a U.S.-inspired ploy to usurp power in Caracas.

But Russian firms find themselves in a quandary, caught between a desire to endorse the Kremlin line and back Maduro, and the fear that by doing so they could expose themselves to secondary U.S. sanctions which would harm their businesses.