New York (AFP) – Global stocks pushed higher on Thursday following signs from the White House that US President Donald Trump’s tariffs may be softer than initially feared.
US stocks have been pressured since Trump first announced plans to enact tariffs on imported steel and aluminum a week ago, a dynamic that has also raised worries on international trading floors over fears of a trade war.
But analysts pointed to softening rhetoric from Trump and his aides over the last day, including a temporary exemption for Mexico and Canada while the countries renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“There is a feeling that President Trump may be toning down his protectionism push,” said Makoto Sengoku, market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.
“Things may not turn out as bad as we feared before,” he told AFP.
Trump struck a harsh tone at times during a ceremony to mark the signing of the tariffs, calling the conduct of foreign steel and aluminum producers “an assault on our country.”
But the US president also spoke optimistically about NAFTA talks.
“I have a feeling we’re going to make a deal on NAFTA,” Trump said during a tariff signing event Thursday afternoon.
“I said it for a long time: make a deal or we terminate, and if we do (make a deal), there’s no tariffs on Canada, there’s no tariffs on Mexico.”
Karl Haeling, vice president of LBBW, said the exemptions and other possible carve outs mean, “there would be hardly any import tariffs put on.”
But FTN Financial chief economist Chris Low said investors remained unnerved by Trump’s actions, which have sparked threats of retaliation from other trading partners.
“Let’s see what the next shoe is to drop,” Low said. “Maybe (Trump is) dialing back the concern, but there’s no question investors are nervous about the possibility of a trade war.”
The S&P 500 finished near session highs at 2,738.97, up 0.5 percent.
International trade is expected to figure into Friday’s trading, along with the much-anticipated February US jobs report.
– Euro sinks after brief jump –
Earlier, European stocks rose after the European Central Bank modestly increased its growth outlook for 2018 to 2.4 percent and kept interest rates unchanged.
The central bank also tweaked its stance on monetary stimulus, saying the improved outlook means it no longer needs to explicitly say it will ratchet up bond-buying if the global outlook becomes less favorable.
The euro jumped up immediately after the ECB statement was released, from $1.237 before to $1.243. It later gave up those gains and sank lower.
Analysts said the ECB dropping a phrase from the statement that it could increase its bond-buying program necessary wasn’t that big a change as no one expected the central bank to increase purchases.
But Eurozone stocks got a boost, with Frankfurt’s DAX 30 adding 0.9 percent and the Paris CAC 40 climbing 1.3 percent.
“The lack of properly hawkish sentiment helped the eurozone indices more than it hurt the euro,” said analyst Connor Campbell at Spreadex.
– Key figures around 2150 GMT –
New York – Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 24,895.21 (close)
New York – S&P 500: UP 0.5 percent at 2,738.97 (close)
New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.4 percent at 7,427.95 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,203.24 (close)
Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.9 percent at 12,355.57 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: UP 1.3 percent at 5,254.10 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.1 percent at 3,415.74
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 21,368.07 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.5 percent at 30,654.52 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,288.41 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2312 from $1.2411 at 2130 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3811 from $1.3896
Dollar/yen: UP at 106.12 yen from 106.07 yen
Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 73 cents at $63.61 per barrel
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN $1.03 at $60.12 per barrel