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Global stocks mixed amid trade war worries

Gary Cohn's departure from the White House is giving markets something to think about
AFP

New York (AFP) – Global stocks finished mixed Wednesday as markets weighed conflicting signs on the Trump administration’s trade plans following the departure of a key White House economic advisor.

Worries about a trade war hung over trading floors around the world, pushing Asian bourses lower while European markets rallied into positive territory after early weakness. 

US stocks opened sharply lower on news that market-friendly White House economic advisor Gary Cohn would depart the White House in the coming weeks, sparking worries the US presidency would tilt towards sharp protectionism.

But US stocks rallied somewhat late in the session after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there were “potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada” and for other countries based on national security.

Uncertainty about the US policy has shadowed global markets since US President Donald Trump’s vow late last week to enact stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

European Union officials outlined planned retaliatory measures on targeted American exports — from steel, industrial and agricultural items to flagship products such as jeans and motorbikes, peanut butter and bourbon — to be rolled out if the US makes good on its threat.

“Trade wars are bad and easy to lose,” EU President Donald Tusk told a news conference Wednesday, directly rebuffing Trump’s assertion last week they were “good and easy to win.”

Warning of “a serious trade dispute” between Washington and the rest of the world, Tusk said leaders of the bloc would hold emergency talks on the issue on March 22-23.

Still, analysts noted that the White House has not released final details of the tariffs. That has led to speculation Trump’s threats may be “posturing” or “part of the negotiation process,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. 

“This market is trying to take a neutral to moderately negative stance until we have more information,” Hogan added.

“Nobody knows what the tariffs are going to be,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. “This administration tends to throw things out, get people riled up and then settle on something a bit more pragmatic. We’ll see if that’s the case here.”

– Key figures around 2130 GMT –

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 24,801.36 (close)

New York – S&P 500: DOWN 0.1 percent at 2,726.80 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.3 percent at 7,396.65 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,157.84 points (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 1.1 percent at 12,245.36 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.3 percent at 5,187.83 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.6 percent at 3,377.36

Seoul – KOSPI: DOWN 0.4 percent at 2,401.82 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.8 percent at 21,252.72 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.0 percent at 30,196.92 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,271.67 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2413 from $1.2404 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3901 from $1.3888

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.05 yen from 106.13 yen

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN $1.45 at $64.34 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN $1.45 at $61.15 per barrel

burs-jmb/ska

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