Stocks sink on inflation woes, as bitcoin plunges

LONDON (AFP/APP): European stock markets sank Wednesday on soaring inflation numbers, while bitcoin took another tumble after China’s central bank said cryptocurrencies cannot be used for payments.
Oil prices slid on reports of a possible breakthrough in nuclear talks with key crude producer Iran — and a rise in value by the dollar against other major currencies. London equities shed 1.1 percent by midday as official data showed a spike in UK inflation in April.
Frankfurt dived 1.3 percent and Paris lost 1.1 percent in early afternoon eurozone trade, after losses earlier in Asia and overnight on Wall Street.
“European markets are trading sharply lower on Wednesday, after a late sell-off on Wall Street,” noted OANDA analyst Sophie Griffiths.
“Inflation fears continue to haunt the markets,” she warned.
Britain’s official consumer prices index hit 1.5 percent in April, the highest since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. The data stoked jitters over a global surge in prices as economies reopen, and came one week after news that US inflation had shot up to 4.2% in April.
Eurozone data meanwhile confirmed Wednesday that inflation in the bloc rose to 1.6% last month. Asian equities also fell Wednesday as investors struggled to break out of a long-running cycle of volatility, with optimism over the economic recovery playing off against fears about rising prices.
Focus is back on the impact that an expected burst of economic activity this year will have on inflation, which many warn could force central banks — particularly the Federal Reserve — to wind back ultra-easy monetary policies, including possibly hiking interest rates.
Traders will be closely reading through the minutes of the Fed’s April meeting when they are released later Wednesday, hoping for an idea about the board’s thoughts on its response to rising prices.
Energy firms were among those leading the losses as oil prices fell from recent peaks following reports that there had been progress on talks to bring the US and Iran back into the 2015 nuclear deal.
“A positive outcome here would pave the way for increased oil supply from Iran,” explained National Australia Bank analyst David de Garis.
Bitcoin meanwhile tumbled to $38,571 — the lowest level since early February — after China said digital currencies could not be used in markets as they were not real, adding that firms were not allowed to use the units to price their goods or services.
Bitcoin has had a torrid time of late, taking a hit after tycoon Elon Musk appeared to suggest Tesla was planning to sell its huge holdings of the unit, which came days after his electric carmaker said it would stop accepting it in transactions because of environmental concerns.
The currency is down about 40 percent from its record high close to $65,000 touched in April and analysts have warned it could fall as far as $30,000.