European stocks slide on soft economic data

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is among the high-level officials visiting China for closely watched trade talks
AFP

London (AFP) – European stock markets eased back on Thursday after subdued eurozone inflation data added to concern that economic growth may be picking up more slowly than hoped.

“Today’s European economic data were far from impressive,” said Fawad Razaqzada at Forex.com.

A survey of British purchasing managers also disappointed investors, Razaqzada said.

The euro ticked higher against the dollar after the fresh eurozone inflation data came a day after weak quarterly eurozone growth figures.

Although the EU is sticking to its projections of solid growth this year and next, the bloc also identified trade protectionism as the biggest threat to the outlook. 

The stark warning from Brussels came as investors were tracking top-level talks between China and the United States.

– Watching China –

The tariff spat between the world’s two biggest economies returned to the fore as a US delegation — including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — sit with Chinese officials in Beijing, with both sides reducing expectations of a quick resolution.

Trading floors have been swamped with worry since US President Donald Trump began this year threatening a series of tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods, with an emphasis on China, which he claims is gaining an unfair trade advantage over the United States.

Both sides were tempering expectations for the gathering with Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, telling reporters it was “not realistic to resolve all issues through only one round of negotiations”.

While China has announced tit-for-tat moves, it has also unveiled a series of measures placating the White House — but there are still worries the situation could spiral into a potentially damaging trade war.

“When you think about the things that have been weighing on the market… I think the one that is really weighing the most heavily is trade and that’s why the market tends to swing the most violently on every new piece of news,” Michael Jones, chairman of RiverFront Investment Group, told Bloomberg TV.

Fresh upheaval in Washington added to the uncertainty on Wall Street as it emerged Trump’s attorney Ty Cobb on Wednesday became the latest lawyer to quit his legal team as a probe into the presidential campaign’s contacts with Russia presses on.

Wall Street opened lower on Thursday after a string of corporate results, and as investors worried about trade.

– Key figures around 1340 GMT – 

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,520.32 points 

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.5 percent at 12,745.09 

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.2 percent at 5,519,87 

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,541.65

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.6 percent at 23,767.80

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.3 percent at 30,313.37 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 3,100.86 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: Closed for a public holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1976 from $1.1944 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3588 from $1.3568 

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.31 yen from 109.91

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 51 cents at $72.85 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 36 cents at $67.57 

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