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

LONDON (Reuters) – 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 U.S. tariffs, while oil prices were higher ahead of an OPEC meeting later in the day.

FILE PHOTO: The German share price index, DAX board, is seen at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Tilman Blasshofer

The MSCI All-Country World index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks stocks in 47 countries, was up 0.2 percent in the European morning but down 1.3 percent on the week, its worst weekly showing since mid-March.

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 (DAIGn.DE) 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 U.S. President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium, raising import duties on U.S. almonds by 20 percent.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross 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 U.S. protectionism was self-defeating and a “symptom of paranoid delusions” that must not distract China from its path to modernisation.

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“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 exports of U.S. tech products to China, they added.

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 .STOXXE 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 EUR=D4. It was last up half a percent on the day and was set to end the week higher by half a percent. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was 0.2 percent lower.

Against the yen, the greenback was little changed. It was modestly higher at 110.14 yen JPY=EBS, below a one-week high of 110.76 scaled the previous day amid lingering concerns over the U.S.-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.

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 percent higher against the dollar GBP=D3 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.

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 LCOc1 traded at $74.00 a barrel, up 1.3 percent. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude CLv1 rose 1.1 percent to $66.27 per barrel.

Earlier in Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS dropped as much as 0.35 percent at one point to touch its weakest since early December, before erasing losses to be up 0.15 percent. Still it was 2.3 percent off for the week.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng .HSI plumbed six-month lows, having lost 3.9 percent so far this week. South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 hit nine-month lows and in mainland China, the CSI300 index .CSI300 lost almost 5 percent this week to one-year lows.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 gave up 0.8 percent for a weekly loss of 1.7 percent.

Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee; Editing by Jon Boyle

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