Stocks sink over expanding trade war fears


Global Markets



Signs that a deal to end the trade war between the United States and China might not come until after the November 2020 elections weighed on global equity markets Tuesday as investors sought out the perceived safety of bonds. The comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that the trade war may last another year came a day after his administration announced new tariffs on steel from Brazil and Argentina and threatened duties of up to 100% on French goods from champagne to handbags because of a digital services tax that Washington says harms U.S. tech companies.

His latest comments appear to dash hopes that an agreement with China could be reached before another round of tariff hikes kicks in on December 15. “As we get closer to the December 15th deadline for new tariffs being imposed on China, risk markets will likely become increasingly nervous as each day passes if we get no news confirming either a date to sign a phase one deal or a delay in these tariffs being imposed, said Mohammed Kazmi, portfolio manager for UBP’s Global & Absolute Fixed Income team.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.88%, following broad declines in Europe.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 338.45 points, or 1.22%, to 27,444.59, the S&P 500 lost 36 points, or 1.16%, to 3,077.87 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 116.41 points, or 1.36%, to 8,451.58. Europe appeared to be the next theater of the global trade war. If history is any guide, the Europeans are likely to find U.S. crosshairs start to move increasingly their way, the closer to next year’s US election we get, CMC Markets told clients. France said Tuesday that it was prepared to push the European Union to respond in kind if the United States followed through on its threats to raise tariffs.

In the case of new American sanctions, the European Union would be willing to retaliate, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Radio Classique. Investors sought out bonds as a safe haven, pushing US Treasuries yields off of two-week highs. Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 21/32 in price to yield 1.7654%, from 1.836% late on Monday. German bond yields meanwhile, slipped off three-week highs, but bond prices are likely to stay under pressure amid renewed risks of early elections or a minority government in the biggest euro zone economy.

The safe-haven bid was in evidence on currency markets too, with the yen at a one-week high to the dollar. The euro edged away from a near two-week peak versus the greenback. The dollar index slipped to a two-week low.

This may have run its course, but there’s no reason to chase the dollar’s upside from here, Daiwa Securities’ foreign exchange strategist Yukio Ishizuki said, noting that the weak manufacturing data had forced many to cut long dollar positions. Trade friction remains a lingering threat, which is not good for market sentiment.

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