23rd August 2015
The FTSE 100 capped off a “frightful fortnight” which has seen more than £135bn wiped off from the index as investors were rocked by renewed fears of China’s economic hard-landing.
Britain’s benchmark index closed down 2.83pc at 6,187 on Friday, ending a ninth consecutive days of falls which has led its descent into official “correction” territory. The index has now fallen by more than 13pc since hitting a high of 7,104 in April.
The panicked sell-off was sparked by another round of disappointing data from China, where factory output (PMI) contracted at its fastest pace since the height of the global financial crisis in 2009.
The latest wave of flagging growth indicators is set to force Beijing into drastic action to revive its fortunes, two weeks after authorities stunned markets by weakening the renminbi and setting off an August market rout.
There is now a “high probability” that the Chinese central bank will move to slash the country’s main lending rate (RRR), said analysts at Societe Generale.
“It’s been a frightful fortnight for the Footsie,” said Laith Khalaf at Hargreaves Lansdown.
“The sell-off may yet have further to run, particularly seeing as such a large part of the UK stock market is in thrall to capricious commodity prices”.
Panic selling also hit US stocks, where the S&P500 fell below the 2000 mark for the first time since January, putting equities on course for their worst week of trading since 2011. The benchmark index closed the day down 3.2pc at 1,970.97 as soft manufacturing data from the US added to global growth woes.
Broader European markets also suffered their worst week of the year. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 capped off a torrid five days, falling by more than 5.6pc. Germany’s DAX was down by 3pc on Friday, while France’s CAC40 declined 3.2pc.
Europe’s indices were driven lower on a resumption of Greece’s woes after prime minister Alexis Tsipras resigned from office, calling snap elections for September 20.
Hard-Left rebels within his Syriza party announced the formation of a breakaway anti-bail-out force called Popular Unity made up of 25 MPs. They are now the third largest party in the Greek parliament.
The rebels, who are led by sacked energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, will seek to club together with far Left forces including the Communist party, to form a minority government over the next three days.
Mr Lafazanis promised to stick by the electoral promises abandoned by his former leader after he was forced to capitulate to creditors’ conditions to keep Greece in the eurozone for at least another three years.
The former minister, who boasts close ties with Moscow, vowed to take the country out of the single currency in a “planned exit”.
After five years of international bail-outs, Greece has undergone the most severe depression of any developed economy in the modern era.
“We won’t accept being in the euro area and having bail-out programs imposed on us,” said the firebrand Marxist mathematician.
But the prospect of a minority government, of either the hard Left or Greece’s pro-euro centre-right forces, is unlikely.
Syriza remain the most popular political force in the country, with polls suggesting Mr Tsipras is set to remain prime minister should elections go ahead next month.
“Markets are still fairly unprepared for the next stage of the Greek crisis, and so the selling seen across Europe in particular is driven by fear rather than certainty of an impending crisis” said Josh Mahoney at IG