Chinese economy remains primary worry in markets
LONDON (AP) -- Stocks remained under pressure Thursday as modestly stronger than anticipated U.S. retail sales figures failed to offset concerns over the Chinese economy.
U.S. government figures showing that U.S. retail sales rose by 0.3 percent in February from the previous month helped shore up market sentiment at Wall Street's open.
That proved fleeting, though, as investors remain preoccupied by what's going on in China. Fears that the world's number 2 economy is struggling have dominated trading all week and were accentuated Thursday by government figures showing industrial production rose by a lower than anticipated 8.6 percent in the first two months of this year. Retail sales growth also fell short of estimates.
"All the focus is on China as concerns intensify about the health of the world's second largest economy," said Fawad Razaqzada, an analyst at Forex.com.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 1 percent to close at 6,553.78 while Germany's DAX fell 1.9 percent to 9,017.79. The CAC-40 in France ended 1.3 percent lower at 4,250.51.
In the U.S., after a bright start, stocks were also down. The Dow Jones industrial average was 1 percent lower at 16,172 while the S&P 500 index fell 0.8 percent to 1,852.87.
In currencies, the euro was flat at $1.3904, having earlier risen to $1.3967, its strongest level since October 2011.
Global markets largely brushed aside the move by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to raise its main interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 2.75 percent. Though other central banks have raised rates since the global financial crisis of 2008 - the European Central Bank and Sweden's Riksbank did so in in 2011 - analysts said the move by the New Zealand central bank may represent a milestone in the global recovery.
In Asia, trading was largely lackluster, though New Zealand's main market rose 0.3 percent. Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 0.1 percent at 14,815.98 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng sank 0.7 percent to 21,756.08.
But in mainland China, the Shanghai Composite rose 1.1 percent to 2,015.03.
"With the Chinese central bank poised to cut the amount of cash banks must keep as reserves in an attempt to stimulate the economy, the local rally can perhaps be justified," said Patrick Latchford at Valutrades.