Global market panic showed fragile signs of easing as Asian markets opened a day after £52bn was wiped from the FTSE and exchanges tumbled around the world.
Trading floors in China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea showed glimmers of improvement following fears of a ’bear market’ – a run on shares fuelled by trader worries – taking hold across the Far East, although gains fell short of recovering losses seen on Wednesday.
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 0.8% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng increased 0.4% a day after the indexes suffered a drop of nearly 4% each.
China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.5% while South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.7% on early trading and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 1.1%.
Markets in Taiwan and Southeast Asia also increased, although the improvements were met with caution by analysts who warned such rallies can be symptomatic of broader downward trends.
Bernard Aw, a market strategist at IG in Singapore, said: “As disciples of technical analysts know very well, a down trend is typically marked by periods of rebounds.”
Collapsing oil prices sent the UK market close to four-year lows on Wednesday as the FTSE 100 Index fell more than 3%, or 203.2 points, to 5673.6.
The price of Brent Crude dipped below 27.50 US dollars a barrel, the market’s lowest level since November 2012.
Oil prices have collapsed by more than 70% since their peak of around 115 US dollars a barrel in summer 2014, as large producers such as Saudi Arabia maintain production levels, putting US shale rivals under pressure.
Global markets also slumped with New York’s Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 2% in early trading, while Germany’s Dax and the Cac 40 in France were around 3% lower.
Fears of a major rout in the US were allayed after a late recovery, although the Dow Jones still closed down 1.6%, or 249.28 points to its lowest level since August.
The Nasdaq showed brief signs of resilience after turning positive in the afternoon, but lost gains to close down 5.26 points, or 0.1%, last seen in October 2014.
The London market has seen over £160 billion wiped off the value of top flight shares in the first three weeks of the year due to slowing growth in China and falling oil prices.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at broker CMC Markets, said: “Few stocks were spared today as European equity markets plunged sharply today with the FTSE100 hitting levels last seen in November 2012, and tipping into bear market territory.”
Bank of England governor Mark Carney said on Tuesday that policymakers were in no rush to raise interest rates amid a weakened world economy and slowing UK growth.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday that easing growth in China and rising geopolitical tensions led it to cut global growth forecasts for the next two years.
In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF predicted world growth of 3.4% this year followed by 3.6% in 2017.
This is a cut in growth of 0.2% in each year from when the fund published its last forecasts in October.
Oil giant Shell fell almost 7% after it said it expects full-year underlying earnings to tumble to between $10.4bn and $10.7bn, due to falling oil prices.
The group is weeks away from completing a $55bn deal to buy gas giant BG Group.
Rival oil major BP fell more than 4%.