In a sign of the breadth of the global selloff in stocks, Germany’s main stock index fell into a bear market Thursday, the latest benchmark to have tumbled 20% or more from its recent peak.
There is one thing some of global bear markets have in common: They have been caught up in global trade disputes.
The DAX index of 30 major companies in the German stock market dropped 20.3% from its January closing high. The index fell 3.5% on Thursday after a steep decline in oil prices and the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive spooked markets.
Other markets already in bear territory are home to companies exposed to recent trade fights between the U.S. and China. The Shanghai Composite Index, China’s main stock benchmark, headed into a bear market in June, followed by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index in September and South Korea’s Kospi in October.
German stocks have been among the worst performers this year in Europe, as a slowdown in the global economy and uncertainty around trade have hurt the export-heavy index. Companies listed in Germany’s DAX are among the most sensitive to tariffs and weaker growth around the world, with roughly 80% of their revenues coming from outside of Germany, compared with just 37% outside of the U.S. for the S&P 500, according to FactSet.
Germany is particularly dependent on the auto sector, which has suffered this year investment professionals worry that trade friction could hit the industry’s complex supply chains.
Is a bear market on the horizon? WSJ markets reporter Riva Gold analyzes the trends that came before the dot-com bubble burst and the financial crisis hit.
The German car industry makes up roughly 7.7% of the country’s gross domestic product, and its troubles subtracted 50 basis points from third quarter growth, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
“On Europe, we’re still bearish,” said Bessemer Trust’s Chief Investment Strategist Holly MacDonald, who has recently reduced exposure to European assets. The coupling of muted or even slowing growth next year and a series of political challenges makes it very hard to see the region doing well, she said.
Domestic political uncertainty has hit European stocks hard. Italy’s FTSE MIB Index fell into a bear market in October as the Italian government is trying to end a standoff with Brussels over the country’s budget.
Brexit worries aren’t helping support demand for European stocks either, with investors withdrawing money from European equity funds for 12 straight weeks through the end of November, according to fund-tracker EPFR Global.
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