Fears of fresh dip see a race for safe assets

FEARS of a double-dip recession on both sides of the Atlantic intensified yesterday sending rattled investors rushing into the relative safety of the government debt market.

In the UK, yields on 10-year government debt fell to 2.876 per cent – the lowest level on record and below the level of March 2009 when the Bank of England first announced that it would buy billions in gilts under its quantitative easing scheme. In Germany 10-year yields fell to 2.15 per cent – also a record low – while the yield on US 10-year Treasury notes plummeted to 2.47 per cent – the lowest since January 2009 at the height of the financial crisis.

The scramble for less risky assets came after a raft of negative data, with sluggish mortgage numbers for July indicating the pressure household finances remain under, and underlining new Monetary Policy Committee member Martin Weale’s warning that the UK faces a “significant” risk of a fresh slump into recession.

The gloom was exacerbated by existing US housing sales data for July which saw sales plummet 27.2 per cent to their lowest level in 15 years heightening fears that a glut of unsold homes will force house prices down again, hurting bank balance sheets as well as consumer confidence. The rush for perceived safe-haven assets saw shares crash with the FTSE 100 closing 78.89 points lower at 5,155.95 and the Dow ended the day 1.3 per cent lower at 10,040.45.

“Global growth is undoubtedly faltering and the outlooks for the major advanced economies are pretty poor,” said Capital Economics’ Julian Jessop.