Hong Kong: A plunge in a gauge of Chinese factory activity stoked fresh fears about the world´s number two economy and the global outlook Wednesday, sending Asian markets tumbling after a heavy sell-off in New York and Europe.
Emerging market currencies — already under pressure from an expected US interest rate hike and weak growth — also took a battering as investors rushed into lower-yielding, or safer, assets such as the yen while oil prices eased.
The losses extended a general downward spiral across the world as dealers fret over the state of the global economy, with a US recovery offset by China posting growth at 25-year lows, and Japan and the eurozone also struggling.
On Wednesday China´s closely watched Purchasing Managers´ Index (PMI) of manufacturing activity for September came in at a six-and-a-half-year low and showed the sector contracted further.
The preliminary reading released by financial publisher Caixin came in at 47.0, down from August and missing expectations of 47.5. A result below 50 indicates shrinkage and anything above points to growth.
“The decline indicates the nation´s manufacturing industry has reached a crucial stage in the structural transformation process,” He Fan, chief economist at Caixin Insight Group said in a statement accompanying the figures.
He blamed the weakness mainly on sluggish external demand for Chinese goods and lower export prices.
The figures come a day after the Asian Development Bank (ABD) said it had lowered its growth expectations for Asia because of the sharp growth slowdown in China, a key driver of global trade.
“It´s a confirmation of fears that were existing in the market already that China is in fact doing worse than we had been led to believe and there´s a lot of uncertainty about where that economy really is,” Emma Lawson, senior currency strategist at National Australia Bank in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.
Among Asian stock markets Shanghai sank 0.88 percent, Hong Kong was 1.90 percent lower and Sydney — where a number of firms with strong China links are listed — shed 1.70 percent.
Seoul, Taipei and Singapore were also each down more than one percent.