Stock markets largely downbeat

Markets were subdued despite North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday calling a halt to nuclear tests and intercontinental missile launches

London (AFP) – Stock markets mostly retreated on Monday, with weak eurozone data knocking the region’s indices and the euro.

Earlier, Asian stock markets largely closed lower, with technology firms extending last week’s sharp losses as investors fret over the future of the once-lucrative smartphone sector, traders said.

News Saturday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had called a halt to nuclear tests and intercontinental missile launches — ahead of a planned summit with US President Donald Trump — was unable to provide enough support.

With market attention turning away from the Syria crisis and the China-US trade spat, a series of reports on Apple expressing doubts about iPhone sales has battered tech stocks across the world.

“Optimism that fading geopolitical fears would bring about a bullish start to the week have been largely disregarded, with stocks trading lower despite the US offer to commence bilateral trade talks with China to resolve the current standoff,” noted Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG trading group.

Investors digested news that business activity in the eurozone continued to grow at a diminished pace in April, bringing fresh doubt on the strength of the economic recovery in Europe.

Data monitoring company IHS Markit flagged a slight slowdown in France, where strikes were interrupting a resurgence unleashed by government reforms. 

Powerhouse Germany was also off strong activity seen earlier in the year.

Elsewhere on Monday, oil prices fell but remained close to 3.5-year highs, with support from comments by Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh on Friday that the global market has the capacity to absorb higher prices.

Saudi Arabia and Russia said at an OPEC meeting in Jeddah they would press on with a production cap deal to defend higher prices.

“OPEC and Russia compliance remains high and solidly committed to reining in oversupply, which should continue to support prices,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

“But involuntary supply cuts and production outages in Venezuela will also continue to support even more so after the falls in US inventories last week.”

He added that dealers were also keeping an eye on possible oil sanctions against Iran by the United States, which could put further upward pressure on the market.

In currency trade, the pound extended losses against the dollar on diminishing expectations of a UK interest rate hike next month.

The dollar edged up against the safe haven yen on hopes the China-US trade spat can be resolved after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was “cautiously optimistic” of finding agreement.

“He also said he was considering a trip to China,” Rodrigo Catril, senior strategist at National Australia Bank, said in a note to clients, adding that the head of China’s central bank had spoken about allowing more foreign access to the country’s market.

Focus this week is also on a slew of US data, including economic growth and personal consumption.

– Key figures around 1045 GMT – 

London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,367.37 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 12,528.73

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 5,407.63

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 3,493.61 

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 22,088.04 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5 percent at 30,254.40 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,068.01 (close)

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.8 percent at 24,462.94 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2228 from $1.2286 at 2100 GMT on Friday

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.20 yen from 107.62

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3953 from $1.4014

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN eight cents at $73.98 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 26 cents at $68.14