China sends a chill through world markets

SEOUL, South Korea - Global stocks fell Thursday as weak China export data disappointed investors amid renewed concerns about the health of the world’s second-largest economy.

Europe started weakly, and around 8 a.m. Eastern Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.9 percent to 6,961. France’s CAC 40 retreated 1.3 percent to 4,394, while Germany’s DAX fell 1.2 percent to 10,395.

Stock index futures indicated that Wall Street was set for a lower opening. Dow futures fell 0.5 percent, as did S&P futures.

Data showed that China’s exports last month fell 10 percent from a year earlier in U.S. dollar terms, compared with a 2.8 percent fall in August. The drop was wider than expected. Analysts forecast a fall of 3.3 percent.

Imports also dropped 1.9 percent last month, after a 1.5 percent gain in August, due to lower shipments of key commodities such as iron ore and copper.

“China’s exports weakened last month on the back of subdued external demand. At the same time, import growth returned to negative territory, raising questions over the strength of the recent recovery in domestic demand,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics. “This could be an early sign that the recent recovery in economic activity is losing momentum.”

Asian markets finished lower. Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.4 percent to 16,774, while South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.9 percent to 2,015. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index retreated 1.6 percent to 23,031, and the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent to 3,061.

Stocks in Australia, Taiwan and Southeast Asia also declined. Thai’s benchmark sank 2.4 percent amid reports that its revered, long-time king is gravely ill.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 9 cents to $50.27 per barrel in New York. The contract closed lower at $50.18 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 25 cents to $51.55 a barrel in London.

The dollar fell to 103.92 yen from 104.29 yen. The euro weakened to $1.0011 from $1.1014.