Markets plummet in first trading day


Sharemarkets in the world's two largest economies have plunged on the first trading day of the year.

Major markets in both China and the US suffered big losses as trading resumed, and New Zealand investors took a hit as well.

Opening day celebrations didn't last long as Wall Street rang in its New Year today.

The Dow Jones endured its worst start to trading since 2008, and earlier the omens had been much worse.

At its low today the Dow Jones was set for its worst opening day since 1932, right at the height of the Great Depression.

The horror start is a sign a new year changes little.

"The drivers of the markets today have been what's been driving the markets since last summer," says Stephen Woodchief, market strategist at Russell Investment Group. "It's been the Chinese economic deceleration. It's been the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, and it's the glut of oil."

Across the Pacific, Chinese stocks were frozen as shares slipped 7 percent in a day.

China's troubles stem from weak manufacturing, which has been in decline for 10 straight months.

And a prolonged slowdown in the Chinese economy could have a big effect on New Zealand exports.

"We're concerned about any economy that's a major trading partner, so in that vein China's very important, and China's also Australia's most important trading partner," says ASB economist Chris Tennent-Brown.

The NZX dropped close to 1 percent on the back of uncertainty in the US and China.

But Mr Tennent-Brown says at least for now, Kiwi investors can relax.

"A lot of the big players and fund managers are still at the beach and I imagine they're not looking at adjusting their portfolios."

Today's volatility illustrates the fragile state of sharemarkets across the world, still trying to recover from the global financial crisis.

When the US raised interest rates last month for the first time in nearly a decade, many saw that as proof the worst was over.

But the New Year has brought more of the same uncertainty, and signs the recovery has a long way to go.

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