NEW YORK: Stock markets mostly dropped Friday, as traders closed out a volatile week for global equities by booking profits amid renewed concerns over troubled Chinese property developer Evergrande.
Evergrande's silence over an interest payment that had been due Thursday fueled investors' angst over the potential fallout from a collapse of the property company. Indexes were down across much of Asia and Europe, while Wall Street finished little changed in a muted conclusion to a topsy-turvy week that saw stocks tumble, then rally.
"The stall this morning is not surprising. The major indices have come a long way in a short amount of time and, consequently, would be seen as needing to take a breather for a bit," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare.
News from China also sent cryptocurrencies plunging as the country ruled all transactions in the digital assets illegal. Bitcoin, which had already been falling before the announcement, dropped as much as 8.9 percent in value before trimming losses to stand at $42,967, down almost four percent.
US traders had seen the Fed's Wednesday move towards tapering its massive stimulus program as a vote of confidence in the world's top economy. But as well as Evergrande, "the continued stalemate among lawmakers on whether to raise the debt ceiling, the Delta variant, and supply chain challenges continue to fester," Charles Schwab analysts commented.
The supply chain woes were highlighted by sports giant Nike Thursday as it cut its sales forecast for the coming quarters. Brent oil prices, meanwhile, jumped to a three-year peak, boosted by tight supplies particularly in the United States
Market players are keeping close tabs on Evergrande, with no sign that it had paid interest to overseas bondholders on a note due Thursday. While the firm has a 30-day grace period to stump up before it is considered in default, the lack of information is keeping investors anxious.
Markets were sent spinning at the start of the week by fears that the company - one of China's biggest developers in the crucial property sector - would go under and drag others with it, in turn jolting the domestic economy and possibly beyond.
But for now, there is a feeling that there will not be a "Lehman Moment", such as when the bankruptcy of Wall Street titan Lehman Brothers in 2008 sparked a collapse on world markets.
Stock markets had enjoyed a couple of strong days prior to Friday on what appeared to be easing concerns over Evergrande. But its share price tumbled more than 11 percent Friday, having surged more than 17 percent a day earlier.
It was not all gloom in Asia, as the Bombay Stock Exchange Sensex index crossed the 60,000 mark for the first time. India's markets have enjoyed whirlwind growth despite the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, more than doubling in value since April last year.
"Expectations of solid economic recovery and sustained growth in the next couple of years is keeping the bulls enthused," Sandeep Bharadwaj of IIFL Securities said.
Dow: UP 0.1 percent
S&P 500: UP 0.1 percent
Nasdaq: DOWN less than 0.1 percent
FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent
Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 0.7 percent
Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.0 percent
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.9 percent
Tokyo: UP 2.1 percent
Hong Kong: DOWN 1.3 percent
Shanghai: DOWN 0.8 percent
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1725
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3674
Euro/pound: UP at 85.64 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 110.73 yen
Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.1 percent
West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.9 percent.