U.S. stocks opened in bear market territory on Monday, a 20 percent decline from their peak in January, a sign of growing pessimism about the outlook for the economy.
Markets around the world tumbled, as higher-than-expected inflation and lower-than-expected economic growth upend the outlook for interest rates and corporate profits. Stocks in Asia and Europe fell, investors dumped government bonds, oil prices slipped and cryptocurrencies crashed.
The S&P 500 fell 2.5 percent at the open of trading, as a wave of selling continued. The S&P 500 briefly dipped into bear market territory last month, before recovering to close just above it. The markets have been jittery since, with the S&P 500 last week recording its worst weekly loss since January.
The benchmark U.S. stock index is now “within one bad day’s move of a bear market, and equity futures suggest that we haven’t seen all the negative sentiment expressed yet,” analysts at ING wrote in a note to investors on Monday morning. The S&P 500 has fallen in nine of the past 10 weeks.
A report on Friday showed a surge in inflation in the United States, which rattled markets, as investors worried that the Federal Reserve may have to raise interest rates higher and faster than expected to rein in rising prices, a move that could hit the U.S. economy.
Global investors sold stocks, bonds and other assets, as inflation is running high in many countries, supply chains remain snarled and forecasts for economic growth are being downgraded.
Stock markets in Asia closed deep in the red, with Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index dropping 3 percent and South Korea’s Kospi plunging 3.5 percent. In Hong Kong, shares fell by 3.4 percent while an index for China’s biggest companies that are listed in Hong Kong fell 3.6 percent. Japan’s yen fell to a 24-year low versus the U.S. dollar.
Fears in the region were heightened on Monday after officials in Beijing and Shanghai reimposed social distancing measures after another round of mass testing over the weekend. China’s economic growth has been dealt a blow by the country’s “zero Covid” pandemic policy that left much of the country under some form of lockdown for months earlier this year.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 index was down 2.2 percent, hitting its lowest level since early 2021. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 1.7 percent after news that the country’s economy unexpectedly shrank in April, falling 0.3 percent from March. Economists had expected a small increase in growth.
European bond prices fell sharply, as traders priced in a series of interest rate increases by the European Central Bank as it reacts to high inflation across the eurozone. Yields on German and Italian government bonds, which move inversely to prices, hit multiyear highs, implying a steep rise in borrowing costs.
Cryptocurrencies, which some believe could act as a haven during times of inflation and turmoil, have also been hit hard. Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, fell to an 18-month low of below $24,000. It has lost around half of its value so far this year. The value of all cryptocurrencies fell below $1 trillion for the first time since early 2021, according to Coinmarketcap, down about $2 trillion from their peak.