Stocks slide as inflation worries mount

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Stock markets slid on Thursday as fears of strong inflation mounted.

The JSE's All-Share Index was down 2% by early afternoon on Thursday. The rand was flat at R14.40/$.Mining shares suffered most, with Implats, Anglo Platinum and Northam all down more than 7%.

Europe's top benchmarks were trading around 1.5% to 2.0% lower in early afternoon deals following some heavy losses in Asia.

The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday said a recent jump in US inflation had been higher than expected as the world's biggest economy recovers from the pandemic-induced downturn.

That has raised concerns that the Fed, along with other central banks, could reduce their emergency stimulus packages and raise interest rates sooner than expected.

Analysts warn that such a situation could put a damper on the recovery.

"While stocks have been on a tear, hitting all-time highs last month, the mood in the markets is starting to sour," noted Oanda market analyst Sophie Griffiths.

"Concerns over the health of the economic recovery are denting risk sentiment and hitting demand for stocks even as the Federal Reserve moves towards tapering asset purchases."

Fed officials believe that the US central bank needs to be ready to pull back on its massive support programme if strong inflation persists, according to minutes from its June policy meeting released Wednesday.

But it gave no indication that a reversal was imminent -=- a stance consistent with commentary from Fed chair Jerome Powell.

US markets appeared ready to set aside inflation fears - at least for the time being - with Wall Street finishing Wednesday's session modestly higher as both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq edged to fresh records.

"It took some time, but the Fed has finally acknowledged rising inflationary forces," said Louis Navellier of Navellier & Associates.

The strong overnight lead from Wall Street provided some boost to Asian equities but Hong Kong stocks closed well down, extending losses on concerns about China's crackdown on the country's tech giants.

Beijing's shock decision to remove ride-hailing app Didi from online platforms on national security grounds has sparked fears of a wider regulatory move against firms once seen as untouchable.

Authorities this week suggested they could revise rules for Chinese companies listed overseas -- a move that would clip the wings of major firms such as Alibaba, Tencent and Bytedance and potentially limit their ability to attract foreign capital.

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