The Latest: US stocks join the global market slump

AP News
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Posted: Feb 11, 2016 9:51 AM
The Latest: US stocks join the global market slump

LONDON (AP) — The latest on the turmoil afflicting global financial markets (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

As anticipated by futures markets, U.S. stocks have taken a big hit at the open.

Shortly after trading started, the Dow Jones industrial average is down 243 points, or 1.5 percent, at 15,678 while the broader S&P 500 index slipped 27 points, or 1.5 percent, to 1,824.

All eyes are turning to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as she prepares to give her second day of testimony to Congress, this time to the Senate Banking Committee.

Yellen's comments on Wednesday have been widely blamed for the volatility in markets on Thursday. Her apparent caution over the prospect of further interest rate hikes from the Fed has been viewed by many as a warning over the state of the global economy.

Connor Campbell, an analyst at Spreadex, says Yellen "is unlikely to provide anything fresh for the markets to chew on."

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1:10 p.m.

As the tumult in global financial markets continues, here's a snapshot of the day so far:

— Stock markets in Europe and Asia have had a big down day and there's no sign of any relief coming when Wall Street traders return to their desks. Futures markets are now predicting a 312-point, or 2 percent, reverse when the Dow opens.

— Gold has hit a year-high around $1,235 an ounce as it gains support through its perceived status as a store of safe value in times of market stress.

— Oil prices are down again as investor fret over the state of the global economic recovery and a glut in supply. The benchmark New York rate is down another 4 percent at $26.34 a barrel, its lowest level in 13 years.

— The yen is also gaining support through its safe haven status. Earlier, the dollar fell to a 14-month low around 111 yen.

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12:50 p.m.

The financial market turmoil is drawing attention back to the ability of a number of countries that use the euro currency to pay their debts.

On Thursday, in a sign that investors are getting somewhat worried again, the interest rate on Greece's 10-year bond rose 0.35 percentage point to 11.32 percent. Greece is already in a bailout program — meaning it does not have to tap bond markets to finance itself — so that increase may not matter too much in the short term.

For Portugal, where the rate has spiked 0.81 percentage point to 4.33 percent, it may be more of a concern. Portugal is no longer in a bailout program so has to meet payments through its own devices. The rise in borrowing costs will put a spotlight on the new Portuguese' government, which is rolling back a series of budget austerity cuts.

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12:10 p.m.

Investors turn to gold as a safe store of value in times of market stress. On Thursday, the precious metal's price rose to its highest in a year.

It was up 2.7 percent at $1,227.70, just off the year-high of $1,230.40 touched earlier in the day. The last time gold traded higher was in February 2015.

"Gold's status as the ultimate safe haven asset has well and truly been confirmed, yet again," said Fawad Razaqzada, an analyst at Forex.com.

The price of gold is now 47 times the price of oil, a record, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Jim Reid. The previous record ratio of 41 times was in 1892 and the ratio was only 12 in May 2014.

While gold is gaining support, oil prices continue to head south. A barrel of benchmark U.S. crude is down 4 percent at a 13-year low of $26.34. Brent, the international standard, fell 1.7 percent to $30.33.

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11:15 a.m.

No respite from the market sell-off is anticipated when New York traders get to work.

Futures markets are predicting big falls on the main Wall Street indexes, with Dow futures pointing to a 250-point drop at the opening bell.

Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG, sought to downplay suggestions that this is a repeat of the global financial crisis in 2007-2008 or even the dot-com crash at the start of the 2000s.

Still, he said it is "clear that we are seeing the biggest crisis of confidence" since the height of the global financial crisis.

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10:30 a.m.

French bank Societe Generale isn't the only bank facing a hammering in stock markets.

The biggest fallers on the Stoxx 600 index of European shares are Greece's Eurobank Ergasias and Alpha Bank, whose stocks have tanked 23 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Other notable fallers are Italy's Banca Monte del Paschi di Siena, which is down 9 percent and Credit Suisse, which has fallen 8 percent.

Banks, particularly Europe, have come under pressure over recent days as investors fret about their ability to cope with a bigger than expected global slowdown at a time when many still have sizeable bad loans on their books.

The Stoxx 600 is down 3.2 percent at 305.2.

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10:15 a.m.

Shares in Societe Generale are being hit hard after the French bank warned it would not achieve a targeted increase in profitability this year.

The bank said it was abandoning a long-held financial target of achieving a 10 percent return on equity by the end of 2016.

Societe Generale shares are down 13 percent at 27.26 euros in Paris.

Many European banks are seeing their shares slide as investors worry about their ability to withstand a bigger than anticipated global economic slowdown.

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9:50 a.m.

Stocks and oil may be getting the most attention in global markets, but there are big moves elsewhere, too — notably the Japanese yen.

The currency has spiked sharply higher in the past couple of weeks due to its status as a safe haven investment in times of trouble.

On Thursday, the dollar was down a further 1.7 percent at 111.42 yen. At the end of January, it was almost 10 yen higher. For major currencies, that's a big move.

Lee Hardman, currency strategist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, says the yen's rise is fuelling speculation that the Japanese authorities could intervene directly to dampen volatility. That could involve the Bank of Japan buying dollars and selling yen.

For Japan's economic policymakers, the higher yen is problematic as it makes Japanese exports more expensive internationally. It also reduces the cost of imports, keeping a lid on inflation, which Japan has been desperately trying to foster for years.

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9:15 a.m.

Stock markets in Europe have opened sharply lower, dashing any hopes that the modest rally in the previous session marked a turning point.

Following hot on the heels of broad-based declines in Asia, the Stoxx 600 index of European shares was down 3.7 percent at 303.7. Among the major indexes in Europe, France's CAC-40 is 3.2 percent lower while Germany's DAX is down 2.8 percent.

One of the biggest index fallers is Italy's FTSE MIB, which is trading 3.8 percent lower — concerns over Italy have mounted in recent days largely as a result of the scale of bad loans in the country's banks.

Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, says the weakness in the markets stems from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen "warning on current financial market turbulence and suggesting further rate hikes could be delayed, which added to already raised anxiety about the health of the global economy to hold back risk sentiment."