Global markets sink as uncertainty reigns

Thursday, December 06, 2018

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London , United Kingdom (AFP) — European markets lost ground yesterday on the back of sharp Asian losses and overnight on Wall Street, as concern grew over the US economic outlook, dealers said.

With Wall Street closed on a US national day of mourning for former president George HW Bush, European stocks tanked as investors pondered problems from trade to Brexit that erased the positive start to the week when sharp gains were made after the US and China appeared ready to dial down their trade war.

After US President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping moved to a truce in their trade spat, Trump tweeted that he saw “very strong signals being sent by China”, with Beijing accepting a 90-day deadline to reach a tariffs agreement.

Capital Economics intimated that the two leaders “seem to have different understandings of what they have agreed. But the deal has, at least, paused the escalation of the dispute”.

For Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst with City Index, “the shock waves from the sharp drop on Wall Street Tuesday continue to reverberate across European markets” as “concerns over global trade are back on the agenda as the fine print on the recent US China deal became apparent, that is that the deal is only valid for the next three months.”

The doubts and the gloom combined to ensure London, Frankfurt and Paris all lost more than one percent on the day as the uncertainty from Britain's ongoing Brexit saga also continued unabated.

Glum mood

Wall Street had been pummelled Tuesday, the Dow losing 3.1 per cent amid worries over slowing US growth and the trade spat with China.

While Trump hailed the deal at first, on Tuesday he warned on Twitter “remember, I am a Tariff Man”, adding: “When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so.”.

In another tweet he left open the door to an extension of the agreement's 90-day timeline to end the row.

China's commerce ministry Wednesday called the pact “successful” and said it “will start with the implementation of the specific matters in which consensus has been reached, the sooner the better.”

Concerns are also mounting about the US economy as short-term and long-term money market rates moved closer together, stoking fears of “inversion”.

If the process continues and short-term rates overtake long-term, it is often taken as a clear precursor to a recession.

Pound's Brexit woes

The pound continued to struggle on concerns Britain could leave the EU without a deal, which most observers fear could hammer the economy.

Sterling had briefly hit a 17-month low at $1.2659 after Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a series of stunning defeats in parliament that highlighted the fight she has in passing her Brexit deal.

If she loses, there are expectations she will face a no-confidence vote and a defeat that could force early elections, leaving the country in chaos.

“May's triple defeats in parliament are highly discouraging and may intensify fears over her Brexit deal being rejected next week,” said FXTM analyst Lukman Otunuga.

Separately, oil prices advanced gingerly after Saudi Arabia raised questions about the chances of an output cut at a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC members this week.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said it was “premature to say what will happen” in Vienna, days after Russian President Vladimir Putin had said the pair had agreed to maintain a production cap.

- Key figures around 1700 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.4 per cent at 6,921.84 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 1.2 per cent at 11,200.24 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.4 per cent at 4,944.37 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.2 per cent at 3,150.16

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 per cent at 21,919.33 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 1.6 per cent at 26,819.68 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.6 per cent at 2,649.81 (close)

New York - Dow Jones: CLOSED (Tuesday close 25,027.07 close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1312 from $1.1343 at 2200 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 113.47 yen from 112.77

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2745 from $1.2719

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 26 cents at $53.51 per barrel

Oil - Brent Crude: UP 29 cents at $62.37

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