Stocks fall on China economic weakness, tempered trade hopes


NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global equities markets fell for a third straight day on Thursday, with Wall Street stocks edging lower as weak Chinese economic data and mixed messages on the progress of trade talks between China and the United States weighed on investor sentiment.

Data showed that Chinese factory activity contracted to a three-year low and that China’s export orders fell at their fastest pace since the global financial crisis a decade ago. The data added to consistent worries about a slowdown in the Chinese economy and its impact on global markets.

Receding optimism on the U.S.-China trade talks also dampened sentiment.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said his office was taking legal steps to implement President Donald Trump’s announcement on Sunday to delay a tariff increase on more than $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that had been scheduled for Friday. But the office later issued a statement clarifying that it was not abandoning the threat of increasing the tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent.

The major U.S. stock indexes dipped, though the pan-European STOXX 600 pared losses to trade little changed. Concerns about China also weighed on emerging market stocks, with the MSCI International EM Price Index down 1.0 percent.

“The negative PMI number is certainly of concern,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York, referring to the weak Chinese economic data. “It paints a question mark globally because China is a huge economy.”

Earlier, news of the break-up of the summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearization triggered flight-to-quality bids in lower-risk assets.

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PULLING BACK

Global equities had scaled a four-month high earlier this week, helped by upbeat expectations about the U.S.-China trade talks.

But on Thursday, the MSCI All-Country World Index dropped 0.3 percent and was on track for a third straight day of losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 23.07 points, or 0.09 percent, to 25,962.09, the S&P 500 lost 3.59 points, or 0.13 percent, to 2,788.79 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 12.91 points, or 0.17 percent, to 7,541.60.

According to equity market analysts in Reuters polls, global stock markets in 2019 will at best only recoup losses from the deep sell-off late last year. They reckon the risk is skewed more toward a sharp fall by mid-year.

In currency markets, the dollar index was little changed against a basket of six major currencies. The euro rose 0.2 percent against the dollar.

The Swiss franc rose 0.5 percent against the dollar, having rallied following news of the end of the summit between Trump and Kim.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes last fell 6/32 in price to yield 2.715 percent, from 2.693 percent late on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Brent oil fell while U.S. crude futures steadied on Thursday on the China worries as well as a surge in U.S. production.

Brent was down 43 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $65.96 a barrel by 10:54 a.m. ET (1554 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude roe 12 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $57.06.

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(This story corrects move in Swiss franc in paragraph 13, strikes reference to yen in paragraph 7.)

Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York, Ritvik Carvalho in London and Shinichi Saoshiro in Tokyo; Editing by Catherine Evans and Dan Grebler



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