Global stocks choppy amid angst over trade war, bond yields

AFP – European stock markets lost ground again Thursday as investors all but gave up hope that a US-China trade war could be nearing its end, while US equities staged a tentative rebound on some solid data.

Fears over the stand-off between the world’s economic superpowers added to jitters over the state of global growth, and inflicted heavy losses on equities Wednesday, including the worst one-day fall this year on Wall Street’s Dow.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond slid Wednesday below the yield on the two-year note, an "inversion" that has been a reliable harbinger of recession for decades.

The issue remained in focus Thursday, with the yield on the 30-year bond hit an all-time low, while the 10-year note plunged to its lowest level in three years before recovering somewhat.

Tumbling longer-term yields are seen as an indicator of waning confidence in medium- and long-term growth, and have preceded the last few recessions.

"The slew of negative news has seen a huge shake down in global equity markets, and money has poured into government bonds," noted David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets UK.

European stocks gave up an early attempt at a rebound to trade lower across the board, with London the worst performer, weighed down by a strengthening pound.

Wall Street stocks finished a choppy session mostly higher Thursday, staging a tentative recovery after strong US retail sales and Walmart earnings gave a reassuring view of US consumers.

Both the Dow and S&P 500 ended higher, while the Nasdaq notched a small loss.

"It’s a schizophrenic market," said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research, who attributed the market’s lurches to changing headlines on the US-China trade war and fluctuations in US Treasury yields.

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After markets closed, President Donald Trump said trade negotiations set for September are "still on," less than a week after saying they might be canceled.

"We’re talking and they’re offering things that are very good," he said, but warned the US could respond to any moves from Beijing with "the ultimate form of retaliation."

– ‘More sinister’ –

The trade war has hammered global demand, with data this week showing China’s industrial output had struck a 17-year low, while investment and retail sales have also slowed in the world’s second biggest economy.

"US-China trade tensions have metastasised into something more sinister by affecting global growth to such a large degree that bond markets are pricing-in a high probability of a worldwide recession," warned Stephen Innes, managing partner at VM Markets.

Weeks of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have added to the uncertainty, with Beijing referring to increasingly violent demonstrations as "terrorism", stoking fears of a Chinese crackdown.

Economists have warned for months that trade tensions threatened investment and dampened global sentiment, which was already suffering owing to China’s economic slowdown and fears over Brexit’s impact on Britain and Europe, where the German economy is showing signs of contraction.

– Key figures around 2115 GMT –

New York – Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 25,579.39 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.3 percent at 2,847.60 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,766.62 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.1 percent at 7,067.01 (close)

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Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.7 percent at 11,412.67 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.3 percent at 5,236.93 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,282.78 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.2 percent at 20,405.65 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.8 percent at 25,495.46 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 2,815.80 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1107 from $1.1139 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2084 from $1.2060

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Euro/pound: DOWN at 91.84 pence from 92.36 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.10 yen from 105.91 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 2.2 percent at $58.23 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.4 percent at $54.47 per barrel