Washington, US (BBN)-Shares and oil prices around the world have seen further falls, sparked by renewed fears over the health of the global economy.
In China, the authorities intervened again on the stock market to little effect. Shares in Shanghai fell 1.5 per cent, reports BBC.
And in Washington, expectations of a US interest rate rise dimmed after Federal Reserve policymakers said the economy was not ready yet.
European markets in Paris and Frankfurt were down 1 per cent in morning trade.
London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index shed 0.5 per cent, while the price of Brent crude oil fell 1.7 per cent to $46.35 a barrel. US crude was down 1.4 per cent at $40.54.
On Wednesday evening, the Fed released minutes from its meeting on 28-29 July, showing that one policymaker was ready to vote for an interest rate rise at the meeting.
Overall, the Fed thought conditions for a US rate rise “were approaching”, but the economy was not ready yet.
Other policymakers remained concerned that inflation would remain weak because of the strong dollar and falling commodity prices, which act as a double depressant on imports.
The Fed’s key interest rate has been kept near zero since December 2008.
There has been speculation that the Fed will raise rates at its meeting in September, and last month Fed chair Janet Yellen said she thought a rate rise this year was likely.
Following the release of the Fed’s minutes, US stocks rallied briefly but then fell back, while the dollar weakened on the currency markets. The Dow Jones index ended Wednesday trading down 0.9 per cent.
The committee also cited China as a potential problem, saying that a “material slowdown” in the Chinese economy could affect the US economic outlook.
The FOMC’s meeting came before last week’s action by China to weaken its currency.
After days of volatility, Chinese equities traded lower once again on Thursday, despite Beijing’s efforts to calm markets.
The mainland’s benchmark Shanghai Composite was 1.5 per cent down to 3,735.92 points.
The negative open comes after the index had seen strong volatility since the beginning of the week.
Traders appeared not to respond to efforts by the central bank to provide more liquidity to stabilise markets.
BBC business editor Robert Peston says many economists believe China’s official 7 per cent growth rate is a serious overstatement of the underlying reality.
He says even a fractional rise in US rates would be uncomfortable when the huge economies of China, Japan and the eurozone have been weakening.
In assessing the strength of the US economy, the Fed has been keeping an eye on the US jobs market – where the unemployment rate has been falling and is now 5.3 per cent. However, inflation is still below the Fed’s target of 2 per cent.
The minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) July meeting said: “Most judged that the conditions for policy firming had not yet been achieved, but they noted that conditions were approaching that point.”
The committee noted that the labour market “had continued to improve, with solid job gains and declining unemployment”.
However, when assessing inflation, it said that “some members continued to see downside risks to inflation from the possibility of further dollar appreciation and declines in commodity prices”.
The FOMC said it would continue to monitor inflation “closely, with almost all members indicating that they would need to see more evidence that economic growth was sufficiently strong and labour market conditions had firmed enough for them to feel reasonably confident that inflation would return to the committee’s longer-run objective over the medium term”.
Inflation figures released earlier on Wednesday showed that consumer prices rose by 0.1 per cent in July, and were 0.2 per cent higher from a year ago.
So-called core inflation, which ignores changes in food and energy prices, also rose 0.1 per cent last month, but was up 1.8 per cent over the year.