Stocks set for worst week in 3 months on trade war worries

Reuters London | Updated on June 22, 2018 Published on June 22, 2018

The MSCI All-Country World index, which tracks stocks in 47 countries, was up 0.2 per cent in the European morning but down 1.3 per cent on the week, its worst weekly showing since mid-March.

Better-than-expected PMIs help European shares

World shares rose on Friday but were set to end a second week lower amid intensifying worries over the fallout of a trade dispute resulting from US tariffs, while oil prices were higher ahead of an OPEC meeting later in the day.

The MSCI All-Country World index, which tracks stocks in 47 countries, was up 0.2 per cent in the European morning but down 1.3 per cent on the week, its worst weekly showing since mid-March.

Trade war woes

Investor anxiety over a possible full-blown trade war has deepened this week over increasingly sharp rhetoric between the United States and China, and growing evidence of the economic damage such a conflict could produce.

German carmaker Daimler cut its earnings forecast earlier this week, saying tariffs on cars exported from the United States to China would hurt Mercedes-Benz sales.

India joined the European Union and China in retaliating against US President Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminium, raising import duties on US almonds by 20 per cent.

US trade protectionism

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had said on Thursday the United States needed to make it harder for its trading partners to have high trade barriers in order to achieve Trump's ultimate goal of lower tariffs and a level playing field.

Chinese state media said on Friday that US protectionism was self-defeating and a “symptom of paranoid delusions” that must not distract China from its path to modernisation.

“With no negotiations in sight at the moment, our base case (scenario) is shifting to a further escalation of the trade conflict between the two countries,” wrote analysts at Danske Bank in a note to clients.

There is a risk of a further deterioration in relations on June 30, when Washington is due to announce a plan to restrict Chinese investments into the United States and limit the export of US tech products to China, they added.

Euro zone PMI

Strong financial stocks and better-than-expected euro zone purchasing managers index for services helped drive a timid relief bounce in European shares. The pan-European STOXX 600 and its euro zone counterpart were set for their biggest weekly loss in three months as the consequences of rising protectionism sank in, notably for the autos sector.

The strong PMIs also boosted the euro. It was last up half a per cent on the day and was set to end the week higher by half a per cent. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was 0.2 per cent lower.

Against the yen, the greenback was little changed. It was modestly higher at 110.14 yen, below a one-week high of 110.76 scaled the previous day amid lingering concerns over the US-China trade dispute.

“The potential for all-out trade war, European political risks and emerging market volatility remain potent factors that should contain dollar/yen within the current range, though the lack of downside over the last week or so suggests stronger underlying demand,” wrote Robert Rennie, head of market strategy at Westpac.

Greece’s borrowing costs

The European PMIs also showed manufacturing growth was the weakest in 18 months on trade worries. Elsewhere in Europe, Greece's borrowing costs fell to four-week lows on Friday after Athens won debt relief from the euro zone.

Sterling was half a per cent higher against the dollar on Friday, extending gains made the previous day after the Bank of England's chief economist Andy Haldane unexpectedly joined the minority of policymakers calling for a UK interest rate hike, citing concerns about growing wage pressure.

OPEC meet

Oil prices rose on uncertainty ahead of a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major producers, including Russia, starting in Vienna later in the day.

Saudi Arabia and Russia are in favour of raising output. Other OPEC-members, including Iran, have opposed this, resulting in a flurry of backdoor diplomacy ahead of the meeting.

Brent crude traded at $74.00 a barrel, up 1.3 per cent. US West Texas Intermediate crude rose 1.1 per cent to $66.27 per barrel.

Earlier in Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped as much as 0.35 per cent at one point to touch its weakest since early December, before erasing losses to be up 0.15 per cent. Still it was 2.3 per cent off for the week.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng plumbed six-month lows, having lost 3.9 per cent so far this week. South Korea's KOSPI hit nine-month lows and in mainland China, the CSI300 index lost almost 5 per cent this week to one-year lows. Japan's Nikkei gave up 0.8 per cent for a weekly loss of 1.7 per cent.

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Published on June 22, 2018
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