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Tremors in global markets, but are they signs of a looming catastrophe?

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Ever since I moved to Hong Kong, any headline related to Asia in the local news prompts my parents to reach out. For them, Asia really only makes the headlines in the event of extreme weather or a natural disaster – earthquakes, in particular, receive a lot of coverage.

Any tremor, no matter how small or how far away from Hong Kong, warrants a call. Given the US Geological Survey has recorded more than 10,700 earthquakes so far this year, the vast majority in the Pacific Rim, I have received a lot of calls. I appreciate my parents’ concern, but every call goes the same way as I try to convince them that whatever shock was just reported is, in fact, just a tremor.

This recurring conversation has been on my mind this week since it closely resembles the concerns about markets recently dipping. Episodes of market volatility, just like seismic events in the Pacific Rim, are normal. Tectonic plates shift to relieve stress along fault lines and sometimes this adjustment creates a genuine natural disaster.

More often than not, though, these shifts are short-lived and do not do much damage – 87 per cent of the recorded earthquakes this year were less than a 5 on the Richter scale (a low-level........

© South China Morning Post