World stock markets fell sharply, heading for their worst week of the year as major U.S. market indexes suffered their worst daily sell-off in almost four years this Friday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) tumbled almost 531 points or 3.1% to 16,459.75, leaving the benchmark down 10% from its high of 18,312 set on May 19.
The S&P 500 shed 64.84 points, or 3.2%, to 1,970.89 while the NASDAQ Composite Index sank 171.45 points, or 3.5%, to 4,706.04.
“The Fed is in an extremely awkward situation right now,” said Robert Van Batenburg, director of flow strategy at Societe Generale. “You have across-the-board competitive currency devaluations that will invoke the deflationary monster here in the U.S.”
China stocks also continued to slump on Friday after the release of the weak economic data, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index going down 4.27% to close at 3,507.74 points. For the week, the SCI sank more than 11%. The Caixin Flash China General Manufacturing PMI also fell to 47.1 in August from 47.8 in July, the lowest since March 2009.
European entities also felt the heat as they fell sharply on Friday with British benchmark FTSE 100 Index, shedding 2.83 percent. Thomas Lee, managing partner at Fundstrat Global advisory in New York, said it was hard to say what was behind the sell-off.
“There’s no shortage of things people can cite, from the movement in currencies, to the weakness in the commodities and fears about China,” he said. “But at the end of the day if people are trying to take down risk, then it’s going to make sense for them to sell their exposure in equities as well.”
A US recession is not in sight though, according to David Kelly, chief market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management. “If you’re fully invested, just enjoy the rest of the summer” he said. “If you’re sitting on cash waiting for a buying opportunity, well guess what, this is the buying opportunity.”
Gold which is seen as a good asset in difficult times rose to its highest level in more than a month. It was up 0.555 at $1,159.60 per ounce.