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Trump 'disappointed' in Fed chief as Asian markets fight back

Dominic Rushe
A board above the floor of the New York stock exchange shows the closing number for the Dow Jones industrial average on Thursday. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

President Donald Trump has blamed an “out of control” Federal Reserve for sharp drops on global stock exchanges and said he was “disappointed” with the central bank’s chair, Jerome Powell.

Global stock markets fell again on Thursday as investors worried about signs of slowing growth, rising trade tensions and higher interest rates.

However, Asian stocks staged a fightback on Friday, stemming Thursday’s bloodletting. Shares were up in Hong Kong, with the Hang Seng index climbing 1.18% and South Korea’s Kospi index up 1.35%.

Yet shares were down in Tokyo (0.12%) and Sydney (0.12%). The benchmark Shanghai Composite, which fell by as much as 6% on Thursday, was flat on Friday, while the Shenzhen Composite, an index tracking stocks on China’s second exchange, was down 0.32%.

In a sign of possible state intervention, the state-run Securities Times sought to soothe jittery investors by calling for more market-friendly policies from the government in Beijing.

Authorities “should roll out positive measures so that investors know the government cares about the stock market, while listed companies and financial institutions should also contribute to improving market confidence,” it said.

China reported higher than expected export growth on Friday, adding to a trade surplus with the US, which could worsen an ongoing trade war between the two countries. Chinese exports in dollar terms rose 14.5% in September, compared with a year earlier. China’s trade surplus with the US reached a record high of $34.13bn in September, up from $31.05bn the month before, according to Chinese customs data.

In Thursday’s US trade, all the major stock markets closed down after similar drops on Wednesday. The S&P 500, the market benchmark, closed over 2% lower, its sixth straight daily decline. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.1%, or 545 points, on top of Wednesday’s 830-point tumble.

The falls came as London’s FTSE 100 index lost close to 2% and in Europe markets ended the day at a 21-month low. That followed sharp corrections across Asia with losses in Australia, China, Japan and South Korea.

US investors are suffering their biggest losses since February which have escalated tensions between Trump and Powell. Powell, who took the Fed’s top job in February, has presided over a series of interest rate rises which have attracted Trump’s criticism.

Trump has been a persistent critic of the Fed’s interest rate policy. On Thursday, he renewed his criticism, blaming the recent downturn in the stock market on the Fed’s rate policy.

“We have interest rates going up at a clip that’s much faster than certainly a lot of people, including myself, would have anticipated. I think the Fed is out of control,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

Trump said he had no intention of firing Powell. Asked if he might dismiss the Fed chair, Trump replied: “No, I’m not going to fire him. I’m just disappointed.”

Part of the recent rout in US stocks has been down to sharp falls in the so-called Faang companies – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google. The tech giants’ share prices have soared in recent months – Apple and Amazon became the first two companies ever to be valued at more than $1tn. Both have suffered sharp losses in recent days as investors have cashed in gains. Amazon dropped another 3.4% on Thursday and Apple fell another 1.4%.

But the falls are now spreading beyond technology stocks. US crude oil dropped 3% to $70.97 a barrel in New York and energy stocks fell sharply too.

The price of gold – a haven for investors – rose 2.9% to $1,223.50 and ounce.

“The S&P 500 is looking very weak and negative and that is putting fear into investors,” Michael Matousek, head trader at US Global Investors told Reuters. “With the markets going down people are increasing their allocation towards gold.”