A month to forget: Biggest losers in January turmoil

So much for the New Year heralding optimism and a brand new start for markets: Major indices around the world have been through a tumultuous month in January with single to double-digit declines to show for it.

Concerns over a slowdown in China's economic growth, a renewed fall in oil prices that saw the price of a barrel of benchmark Brent fall below $30 and general market uncertainty about central bank monetary policy have all shaken global investors.

China's stocks rebounded on Friday but the market is still on track to post its biggest monthly fall since the global financial crisis in 2008-2009 following marked volatility earlier this month. The Shanghai composite is down 22.65 percent since the start of the year and China's CSI300 index has also declined around a similar amount.

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile in Asian economic powerhouse Japan, there was volatile trade on Friday after the Bank of Japan decided to extend its monetary stimulus program by introducing a negative interest rate policy. The Nikkei 225, which was down 0.6 percent before the announcement, surged as much as 3.51 percent soon after, before tumbling as much as 1 percent. It then surged to close up 2.80 percent. Since the start of 2016, Japan's Nikkei is down 7.96 percent, however.

Europe has not been immune to the tumult with oil prices playing the dominant role in declines over the last month,

There is also reason to hope for a better start to February, however, as oil prices are set for their fourth straight session of gains. Global benchmark Brent crude futures rose on Friday, having moved 6.5 percent higher so far this week, buoyed by hopes that oil-producing countries could come to some kind of deal to tackle a glut in supply.

While the price of a barrel of Brent at $34 and U.S. crude at $33.45 on Friday might be cold comfort for oil producers, particularly those in the U.S. who have higher production costs, the rebound has appeared to buoy markets in Europe, offering a reprieve from the declines seen mid-month when Brent futures hit an intraday low of $27.10.

Despite all the market volatility and concerns over oil prices, London's FTSE index – down almost 5 percent since the start of the year -- has not suffered as much as its German counterpart, the DAX, which has declined 10 percent in January.

Germany's significant export exposure to China fueled the selloff – the country's key automotive industry was the biggest contributor to exports in 2014 but Volkswagen and BMW sales have started to slow, not helped by the emissions scandal that has engulfed the former. For the EU as a whole, China was the EU's second-biggest trade partner in 2015.

Meanwhile, France's CAC index has lost 6.7 percent this month. France exports products such as luxury goods and aircraft to China.

As markets in the U.S. were poised to open for the last trading day of the month, futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street as traders anticipated the release of fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data, despite fears of a weaker-than-expected 0.8 percent growth.

U.S. stocks could do with a boost. The S&P 500 is down 7.4 percent this month, but the heaviest losses have been seen on the tech-heavy index, the Nasdaq, which has declined 10 percent this year so far.

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