Contamination signs trigger slide on world markets


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The Independent Online

Worrying signs that eurozone woes are contaminating powerhouse economies in the United States and China triggered another slide on world markets today.

The weakest US jobs growth in a year, and figures showing expansion in China's manufacturing sector almost ground to a halt last month, dashed hopes that the world's two largest economies will ride out the euro storm.

And further evidence that the crisis is derailing the UK economy was delivered in dire manufacturing figures showing the second sharpest fall in activity in the 20 years of the Markit/CIPS survey.

Markit said the collapse to a three-year low reflected the increasing weakness of the UK domestic market, with overall order books shrinking at a faster rate than export orders.

There was a similar weak performance from European manufacturers, while unemployment across the 17 countries that use the euro remained at 11% in April - the highest level since the single currency was introduced in 1999.

The wave of grim data knocked more than 1% off London's leading shares index, which endured its worst month in three years in May.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 1.5% following the latest jobs figures, while declines were even heavier on markets in Germany and France, with the Dax down 3% and the CAC 40 off 2%.

Jason Conibear, a director at forex specialists Cambridge Mercantile, said: "A few months ago the feeling was that a strong China and resurgent US would steer the eurozone through its current plight.

"Now the fear is that these economies could themselves be sucked into the rapidly spiralling eurozone vortex.

"The global economy is in a seriously bad way and we're running out of options to turn things around."

The pound slipped lower on currency markets as the weak UK manufacturing data made it more likely that the Bank of England will be forced to restart its money printing programme to boost the economy.

London's leading shares index has suffered consistent falls in recent weeks amid fears that Greece will crash out of the eurozone and cause havoc in the currency bloc.

The debt-ridden nation, which is in its fifth year of recession, faces a crucial election later this month, which has been branded a referendum on whether it will stay in the eurozone and stomach more painful austerity measures.

Meanwhile, there are fears over the health of Spain's banking sector, after its fourth biggest lender, Bankia, said it needed a 19 billion euro (£15.2 billion) bail-out. In the UK, banking stocks have been among the worst hit.

Brent crude oil prices have slipped below 100 US dollars a barrel, down from peaks of 128 US dollars earlier in the year, as the prospects for the global economy worsen.