Markets wobble as manufacturing outlook weakens, trade war looms - GulfToday

Markets wobble as manufacturing outlook weakens, trade war looms

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A trader works at his post during the opening bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. Agence France-Presse

Shares retreated in Europe early on Monday after a mixed day in Asia as surveys of manufacturers showed business confidence crumbling as Washington and Beijing spar over trade and technology.

Germany’s DAX fell 0.2% to 11,703.19 while the CAC 40 in France also lost 0.2%, to 5,195. The FTSE 100 in Britain gave up 0.3% to 7,142.64, while the future contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.3% to 24,743.00. The S&P 500 future contract fell 0.3% to 2,743.80.

A private survey, the Caixin manufacturing purchasing managers’ index, or PMI, held steady at 50.2 in May. But business confidence in the report issued Monday slipped to the lowest level since the series began in April 2012, it said. The official manufacturing PMI, issued Friday, sank to one of the lowest levels in three years.

China’s Shanghai Composite lost 0.3% to 2,890.08, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was almost unchanged at 26,893.86. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.9% to 20,410.88. The S&P ASX 200 in Australia dropped 1.2% to 6,320.50 amid expectations the central bank will slash interest rates on Tuesday for the first time in three years.

PMIs for elsewhere in Asia were mixed, with some coming in surprisingly stronger than expected. The manufacturing PMI for the Eurozone remained at 47.7, well below the 50 level signifying expansion.

The US has raised tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese exports and Beijing has followed suit with its own hikes of import duties, obscuring the outlook for investors and shaking up supply chains.

After 11 rounds of negotiations talks are at a standstill, and the Trump administration has ordered further action to curb access by Chinese smartphone and telecom gear maker Huawei Technologies from the US and other markets.

“Let’s understand that trade conflicts are the catalyst for the real issue; slower global growth leading to stagflation and recessionary conditions,” Chris Weston of Pepperstone said in a commentary. “With the weekend news flow centering again on trade, where a Chinese white paper attributed the blame on relations to Trump, amid Chinese authorities investigating FedEx, it all suggests things will only get worse before they get better.” South Korea’s Kospi rose 1.3% to 2,067.85 after Samsung Electronics’ Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong met with top executives of the company to discuss strategy as demand for computer chips and smartphones slows and Beijing and Washington clash over trade.

“In this rapidly changing environment, we need to keep our unwavering focus on long-term, fundamental leadership in technology,” Lee said in a company statement.

India’s Sensex rose 1.4% to 40,267.62. Shares were flat Taiwan and rose in Singapore. Markets in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand were closed.

China released a “white paper” report Sunday that blamed the conflict over trade on the Trump administration, but stopped short of announcing details of a plan for retaliating against a US blacklisting of Huawei Technologies. On Friday, it said it would soon announce its own list of “unreliable entities” consisting of foreign businesses, corporations and individuals.

Wang Shouwen, China’s vice commerce minister, said Beijing will issue more specific information on the list soon.

At a meeting in Singapore, China’s defense minister warned its military would “resolutely take action” to defend Beijing’s claims over self-ruled Taiwan and disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Regarding trade, Gen. Wei Fenghe said that if the US wanted to talk the door was open.

“If they want to fight, we will fight till the end,” Wei said. “As what the general public of China says these days, a talk, welcome. A fight, we’re ready. Bully us, no way.” All this talk has investors fleeing to traditional safe havens, pushing the Japanese yen strongly higher against the US dollar. On Monday the dollar strengthened to 108.30 yen from 108.28 yen late Friday. Until late last week, the dollar had been trading at about 110 yen.

The euro rose to $1.1180 from $1.1170 late Friday.

Benchmark US crude oil reversed earlier losses, gaining 60 cents to $54.10 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It tumbled 5.5% to settle at $53.50 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 52 cents to $62.51 per barrel. It closed 3.6% lower on Friday.

US stock index futures fell on Monday, signaling Wall Street’s main indexes would extend last month’s losses at the open, as the multi-front trade war made investors increasingly risk averse and fueled worries of a recession.

May kicked off with a sharp escalation in U.S.-China trade tensions as the two sides imposed tit-for-tat tariffs and the month ended with the United States threatening to levy duties on all Mexican imports unless it curbs illegal immigration, adding to global growth worries.

Wall Street’s three main indexes lost at least 6% last month, their first negative monthly performance this year. The S&P 500 is now 7.3% off its record high hit on May 1.

Investors’ flight to the security of government bonds and other safer bets continued on Monday as the war of words between the world’s two largest economies ramped up over the weekend.

Reuters