On fifth anniversary of credit crisis, global markets fall

The unofficial anniversary of the start of the global credit crisis sees markets down, despite hopes of more Chinese stimulus and encouraging US jobs data.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. On Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, five years after French bank BNP Paribas closed two mutual funds exposed to US subprime mortgages, many world markets were falling.

Financial markets were lackluster on Thursday — what many consider the fifth anniversary of the start of the global credit crisis — despite hopes that China's monetary authorities will do more to shore up economic growth in the world's second largest economy.

With inflation in China falling to 1.8 percent in July from the previous month's 2.2 percent, expectations are rising that Beijing may ease monetary policy to boost economic growth, which has slowed sharply this year. Separate figures on industrial production and retail sales confirmed the slowdown.

"The Chinese data release that many traders were waiting for overnight may be pointing towards a slowdown but there's seemingly little to suggest this has taken anyone by surprise," said Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at Interactive Investor.

In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 0.6 percent at 6,918 while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.1 percent to 3,436. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was flat at 5,845. The euro was down 0.6 percent on the day at $1.2292.

In the U.S., upbeat weekly jobless claims figures did little to lift the mood — the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.1 percent at 13,169 while the broader S&P 500 index fell the same rate to 1,401.

The unremarkable performance contrasts with what occurred five years ago, when French bank BNP Paribas closed two funds exposed to U.S. subprime mortgages, alarming global banks, who stopped lending to each other. The credit freeze became so bad that day that the European Central Bank pumped €95 billion into financial markets to free up the flow of capital between banks.

That failed to calm markets, as did numerous other liquidity injections in the following months. A year later, the credit crunch eventually led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers that triggered the deepest global recession since World War II.

"It's hard to believe that it's 5 years ago today that the financial world started to appreciate the magnitude of the problems that would be the soundtrack to our lives over the last 5 years," said Jim Reid, an analyst at Deutsche Bank.

The effects of that crisis are still being felt far and wide, with the world's largest economies facing differing degrees of financial trouble. In Europe, the debt crisis shows few signs of abating despite hopes that the European Central Bank is readying a new strategy to lower the borrowing rates of Spain and Italy.

Those hopes have shored up markets for the best part of two weeks. Stocks have enjoyed one of their best runs in months, while the euro has clambered off near two-year lows against the dollar and oil prices have pushed back above the $90 a barrel mark.

However, unemployment figures out of Greece highlighted the human cost of the five-year crisis — 23.1 percent of the working population were without a job in May. A startling 53.9 percent of under 25s were unemployed.

The last five years have proved to be one of the most dramatic and volatile periods for financial markets since the stock market crash of 1929. Most stock indexes are still far below the peaks they hit in the summer of 2007.

By contrast, returns on so-called safe haven investments — such as government bonds from the U.S., Germany and Britain, as well as precious metals like gold — have been strong as investors sought to protect their capital.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.1 percent to close at 8.978.60. During the session, the Nikkei had surpassed the 9,000 level for the first time since July 6.

South Korea's Kospi jumped 2 percent to 1,940.59. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1 percent to 20,269.47. On the Chinese mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 percent to 2,174.10. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index added 1.5 percent to 909.69.

Oil prices advanced further, with the benchmark rate up 50 cents at $93.85 a barrel.

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