Stocks falter as trade war fears deepen

Donald Trump's decision to impose tariffs on billions of dollars with of Chinese goods was met with an immediate retaliation by Beijing

London (AFP) – World stock markets faltered Monday as traders eyed looming trade wars and worried about EU rifts over migration.

Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said that “the latest twist in the US-China tariffs tiff last Friday continued to define trading”.

Frankfurt and Paris equities slid Monday “with political tensions in Germany rising over an argument about migration”, noted Campbell.

The euro fell versus the dollar but managed to avoid fresh 11-month lows reached Friday.

Tokyo earlier closed down almost one percent, while Shanghai and Hong Kong were closed. 

Fresh fears of a trade war between the world’s top two economies have emerged after the United States and China imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars of imports.

– ‘Festering’ trade tensions –

“US stocks are lower in early action, with Asia seeing some pressure and European markets broadly lower, amid festering global trade concerns after the U.S. and China traded tariff announcements last week,” said analysts at the Charles Schwab brokerage.

US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to hit China with 25 percent levies was met with an immediate retaliation, moving the two closer to a trade war that could potentially batter the global economy.

The announcement came despite weeks of talks between the two sides.

The developments had already sent stocks into the red across Europe and on Wall Street Friday, and the weaker trend continued on both sides of the Atlantic Monday.

In Europe, investors were also looking ahead to Tuesday, when French President Emmanuel Macron heads to Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel and Macron both agree on the need for a Europe-wide response to migrants, and are hoping to hammer out a policy acceptable to all member states that would ease the burden on Italy, Greece and other main entry points.

Hardliners in Merkel’s conservative bloc meanwhile gave her a two-week ultimatum to tighten asylum rules or risk pitching Germany into a political crisis.

With traders fleeing to safer assets, the yen rose against the dollar.

– ‘Battle lines’ –

Brent crude meanwhile rebounded after slumping last week, as investors fret over Russia and Saudi Arabia’s expected agreement to ramp up output at an OPEC meeting that starts Friday.

The two major producers have kept a ceiling in place since late 2016, which has helped ease a supply glut and lift prices from multi-year lows.

Benjamin Lu, a commodities analyst at Phillip Futures Singapore, said crude was being weighed down also by trade war fears.

“We expect for global trade tensions to weigh on prices sporadically as populist sentiments pervade the financial markets,” he noted.

“Enhanced volatility can be expected… as markets worry about the prospect of weaker trade activity, with economic battle lines being drawn.”

 – Key figures around 1330 GMT – 

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,613.42 points 

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 1.5 percent at 12,817.53

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 1.3 percent at 5,432.36

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.3 percent at 3,461.38

New York – Dow Jones: DOWN 0.8 percent at 25,883.23

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.8 percent at 22,680.33 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: Closed for a public holiday

Shanghai – Composite: Closed for a public holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1598 from $1.1606 at 2100 GMT on Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3234 from $1.3281

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.50 yen from 110.68 yen

Oil – Brent Crude: UP 80 cents at $74.24 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 16 cents at $65.22