Hong Kong stocks are up in anticipation of the switch from Trump to Biden. Photo: AFP / Nicolas Asfouri

Beware the dreaded R-word. As the trade war between Washington and Beijing drags on, concerns are growing that a recession is just lurking around the corner.

Wall Street and European markets suffered a torrid time overnight, spilling into Asia on Thursday after China and Germany posted dismal economic date.

Apart from trade tensions, fears that the United Kingdom will crash out of the European Union without a Brexit deal on October 31 and the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have spooked global investors.

“Every central bank around the world is trying to prop up economies and every politician around the world is trying to destroy economies,” Oliver Pursche, the chief market strategist at Bruderman Asset Management in New York, told Reuters news agency.

“What’s happening in Hong Kong, what’s happening with Brexit and the trade war, it’s all a mess,” he added.

Read David P. Goldman: Trump risks recession with tariff hike

On Wednesday, the Dow suffered its worst day on Wall Street this year, plunging 800 points, or 3.1%, to close at 24,479.42 while European markets dropped more than 2%.

US Treasury yields also inverted for the first time in 12 years which is a traditional omen of a recession.

“On the economics dashboard of doom, we have another flashing warning light,” analysts at ING economics said. “The market is worried about a recession. “For now we don’t see it, but there is a chance the fear becomes self-fulfilling.”


Markets in Asia naturally felt the tremors.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index recovered slightly after falling 2% in the opening session to close at 1.21% down while Australia’s ASX 200 tumbled 2.61%.

Elsewhere, the Shanghai Composite edged slightly higher at 0.25% with the Shenzhen Component adding 0.48% after heavy losses earlier in the week.

Finally, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed up 0.76% following days of turbulence.

Still, yields for 10-year government bonds in major Asian markets (see graph) dipped sharply in morning trading.

“US recession risks have increased from US aggressive trade policies on China hurting the rest of the world,” Eugene Leow and Philip Wee stated in a report for DBS, the Singapore-based bank.

Horrid economic numbers coming out of China in the past week have also painted a depressing picture.

Included in a raft of stats released by Beijing was data showing that factory output had plummeted in July to its lowest level in 17 years.

To complete what many analysts have warned could be a “perfect storm,” Europe’s largest economy Germany reported a contraction in GDP, or gross domestic product, growth in the second quarter.


Brexit and the fallout from the Sino-US trade dispute appear to have a cast a giant shadow. The turmoil in Hong Kong has just added to the gloom.

“Today’s GDP report definitely marks the end of a golden decade for the German economy,” Carsten Brzeski, the chief economist in Germany at the Dutch bank ING, told the CNN network.

Another twist came from US President Donald Trump on Wednesday night when he linked the Hong Kong demonstrations and Beijing’s bellicose reactions to a crucial trade truce.

In a series of tweets, he called on President Xi Jinping’s administration to show restraint.

“I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it,” he tweeted. “Of course China wants to make a [trade] deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!”

Earlier, Xi’s government made it clear that what happens in the Special Administrative Region is an “internal matter,” telling the US not to interfere.

Already relations between the two economic superpowers are distinctly frosty, fuelling concerns of a new Cold War as the global economy feels a drastic drop in temperatures.

“There is plenty of doom and gloom to spread across the globe,” John Doyle, the vice-president for dealing and trading at Tempus in Washington, told the CNBC network overnight.

“[The US yield curve] is a major recession indicator. Germany, Italy and the UK are likely headed for a recession. Today’s Chinese data was shockingly bad.”

There goes the R-word again.

Read: China and the US are caught in a Cold War trap

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