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Asian, European markets drop after Wall St battering

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Markets in Europe and Asia posted losses Thursday, after Wall Street suffered one of its worst batterings in two years.

Downcast earnings reports from retailers had exacerbated worries about consumer resilience and corporate profitability Wednesday, sparking a rough day’s trade.

Hong Kong slumped 2.5 percent, while Tokyo closed down by 1.89 percent.

Among the biggest losers in Hong Kong were Chinese tech giants after Tencent reported lacklustre profits, fuelling wider concerns for a grim earnings season as China’s economic outlook worsens.

Tencent plunged more than eight percent in early trading before paring losses slightly, a day after it posted its slowest revenue gain since going public in 2004.

Alibaba dropped more than six percent, while Baidu and Xiaomi were also down.

Elsewhere in the region, Australia posted its lowest jobless rate in 48 years, in a potential boost to Prime Minister Scott Morrison two days ahead of a tightly contested federal election.

The unemployment rate dipped to 3.9 percent, the official statistics body said, the lowest rate since 1974.

But stocks in Sydney were still down, as were those in Singapore, Seoul and Taipei.

Jakarta and Shanghai eked out small gains.

Europe’s main stock markets opened lower too. London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index fell 0.8 percent, while Frankfurt lost 1.5 percent and Paris shed 1.4 percent.

– Retailer woes –

“Sentiment… is highly negative as traders and investors are largely concerned about an economic downturn and soaring inflation,” said AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam.

Stephen Innes at SPI Asset Management called Wednesday’s losses “the most significant daily decline since June 2020”.

“The weakness came as Target’s quarterly earnings added fuel to the recession risk narrative,” he added.

Target, the North American-focused big-box retailer, plunged around 25 percent after earnings missed expectations despite higher sales.

The company pointed to the hit from higher operating costs in results that echoed those of bigger rival Walmart.

The retailers said profits were under pressure and some consumers were avoiding discretionary purchases as prices for food, gasoline and other household staples rise.

All three major US indices dove Wednesday, with the Dow sinking 3.6 percent and the Nasdaq plunging 4.7 percent.

“The big falls in shares of these retails… highlights the damage inflation is inflicting on the sector’s profit margins,” said Fawad Razaqzada at City Index.

“What’s more, consumers are getting squeezed as well and if they now start to cut back on spending then retailers could suffer even further.”

In some of his most hawkish remarks to date, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the US central bank would raise interest rates until there is “clear and convincing” evidence that inflation is in retreat.

“We’ve had investors for the most part who’ve lived through three or four decades of declining interest rates, rising multiples for equities and strong earnings for the most part,” Christopher Smart, chief global strategist at Barings LLC, told Bloomberg Television.

“Now you’re entering a very new phase where we’re not really quite sure where inflation is going to level off.”

— Bloomberg News contributed to this report —

– Key figures at around 0820 GMT –

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 2.54 percent at 20,120.60 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.36 percent at 3,096.96 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.89 percent at 26,402.84 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 7,376.16

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.58 percent at $109.74 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.05 percent at $109.65 per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0485 from $1.0479

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2382 from $1.2346

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.68 pence from 84.88 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 128.00 yen from 128.58

New York – Dow: DOWN 3.6 percent at 31,490.07 (close)

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