Newspaper headlines: Markets turmoil, new 'planet', dementia test and suffragette statue

Turmoil across global stock markets amid plunging oil prices features on many of the front pages.

The Times says more than £50bn was wiped off the London FTSE 100 index, which closed at its lowest level since November 2012.

The paper records falls of £3.5bn for Britain's biggest company HSBC, and £4bn for oil giants BP and Shell between them.

"A wave of selling hit the London market early in the day as global fears over the falling oil price and China's stalling economic growth took hold," it reports.

"With central banks reaching the limits of their ability to support the financial system, the concern is that a new downturn could prove impossible to halt."

The Times quotes analysts who paint a bleak picture of the situation.

Investment company chief executive Michael Spencer says: "I've been around for 40 years and this is the worst start to a year I've seen in my entire career. I don't think this'll be over in a month, or even two months or three months."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Stormy times for stock markets around the world

The Guardian pictures a grimacing trader on the New York Stock Exchange.

The paper says there were fears of a financial crash reminiscent of 2008 - but with less that can be done about it.

"Oil prices fell to a 12-year low and metal prices tumbled in response to warnings that China's slowdown could derail the global recovery at a time when central banks, which came to the rescue in the credit crunch, have limited firepower," states the Guardian.

"As world and business leaders gathered for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the FTSE 100 was gripped by panic selling, especially of mining and oil companies that have been hit hard by the global slowdown in manufacturing and trade."

The Financial Times says "fear rippled through global markets", compounding equities' worst start to a year on record, as natural resources prices "suffered another bruising day".

The FT continues: "Equities have been dragged down by rising concerns over China, global economic growth prospects, sliding commodity prices and questions over whether central banks remain willing to act as a backstop."

The paper says concerns over China at the start of the year have "snowballed" into a wider reappraisal of the global economy and the ability and willingness of central banks to support markets.

'Bear pit'

The Telegraph reassures its readers that a fall in the FTSE 100 might not hurt them as much as they think.

"Most large pension funds invest globally and across assets other than shares, so an individual's portfolio won't move exactly in line with the Footsie," it explains.

The Independent's deputy business editor Ben Chu writes: "Investors around the world found themselves in the grip of a vicious bear market driven by alarm about the price of oil and trepidation about a hard landing for China yesterday."

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Media captionLondon Evening Standard political correspondent Pippa Crerar and broadcaster John Stapleton join the BBC News Channel to review Thursday's front pages.

Analysis by Alex Brummer in the Mail says it is a downturn with echoes of the last great crash.

"The toxic combination of events looks as if it could be deeply destabilising for us all," he writes.

"Far from partying on the ski slopes of Davos, the prime minister and the chancellor could well find themselves drawn into emergency talks on how best to restore confidence rather than enjoying plaudits for Britain's economic recovery."

The Express says millions of people saw the value of their pension pots plunge. The Sun says pensions were in a "bear" pit.

'Planety planet'

The papers cast their gaze skywards with the possibility that scientists have found a "ninth planet" in the solar system.

"Astronomers claimed to have found 'good evidence' of a mysterious ninth planet which they believe has escaped being detected directly by the most powerful telescopes," says the Independent.

"The gas-giant planet is believed to be 10 times the mass of the Earth and as big as Neptune, the eighth and furthest planet from the Sun, but orbiting several billions of miles beyond the path of Neptune, making it effectively invisible to direct detection."

Image copyright Caltech
Image caption Astronomers say there is "good evidence" for a ninth planet in the solar system

The Telegraph says researchers at the California Institute of Technology, who made the discovery, have described it as "the most planety planet of the solar system".

Space just got smaller, says the Times, as scientists close in on what would be the ninth planet.

Guardian science editor Ian Sample writes: "As science often does, it began with a 'huh?'

"Some distant objects far beyond Pluto were behaving very oddly. The orbits of a handful of space rocks had aligned for no apparent reason.

"Though stumped at first, astronomers came to an explanation: there is a huge ninth planet at the edge of the solar system."

'Great challenge'

The Mirror leads with a story about a simple test that has been developed which can reveal a person's risk of developing dementia with 85% accuracy using lifestyle history on a routine visit to their GP.

It uses factors contained in a patient's medical records such as history of depression, stroke, alcohol intake, diabetes, irregular heart rate, weight loss, smoking and high blood pressure.

The paper explains that those more likely to develop dementia could change their habits to reduce the risks.

Lead researcher Kate Walters is quoted as saying: "This could help GPs working with people anxious about developing dementia. There are, of course, ethical considerations.

"Some people are keen to know as much as possible about their risk and may decide to make lifestyle changes which could lower it. Other people will simply not want to know."

The Mirror notes that more than 850,000 Britons have dementia, with Alzheimer's being the most common form of the disease.

Eye-catching headlines

  • DNA tests on dog mess to catch owners? It must be Barking: Dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets in parks in Barking and Dagenham in east London will be targeted in a pioneering scheme involving the DNA testing of the animals Times
  • Chippy batters opposition to win top award: A Cheltenham fish and chip shop has been named the best in the UK, beating nine other regional finalists in the industry's biggest awards scheme Guardian
  • Unsexy Kingdom is still the third best nation: The UK has been ranked the third "best country" in the world by a US weekly magazine despite British people's lack of sex appeal and the weather Independent

The Telegraph points out that it is the first test that does not need extra information such as blood samples, memory checks or DNA analysis.

Writing in the paper, Prof John Hardy describes Alzheimer's as "one of the great challenges of our age".

"Reports this week have served to remind us that as our society ages, and more people develop the disease, immense strains will be placed on our health system, and, of course, families who see loved ones drift away from them," he says.

"Alzheimer's is also one of the great scientific challenges for medical researchers like me. I have worked on finding a cure for decades.

"Last November I was honoured to become one of six scientists to receive a £2m 'Breakthrough Prize'.

"They are referred to as the 'Oscars' of the science world, but I didn't even own a tuxedo before the black-tie ceremony. I am more a jeans and T-shirt type."

Votes for women

Finally, the Independent reports that Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the British suffragette movement, will become the first woman to have a statue erected in her honour in Manchester for more than 100 years following a public vote.

Image copyright PA
Image caption There is already a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in London but not as yet in Manchester

The five other candidates included writer Elizabeth Gaskell. The statue will be unveiled in 2019.

The only other woman to have a statue in the city, in case you are wondering, is Queen Victoria.

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