* Decline in Chinese exports weighs on commodity currencies
* Copper hits eight-month low
* Mining stocks hit by Chinese trade data
* Tensions between Russia and Ukraine added to investor
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, March 10 Global stock indexes slipped
and the prices of copper and oil sank on Monday after
surprisingly weak Chinese trade data added to worries about a
slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.
China's exports unexpectedly tumbled in February, falling
18.1 percent from a year earlier and swinging the trade balance
into deficit. The data underscored recent concerns about the
outlook for China's economy, even though the Lunar New Year
holidays were blamed for the slide.
The data put a dampener on risk sentiment, which had been
boosted briefly by Friday's stronger-than-expected U.S. non-farm
"The weak China trade balance data caused some flight to
quality on less optimism about the global economy," said Jeffrey
Young, interest rate strategist at Nomura in New York.
Prices on benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries were
last up 3/32 to yield 2.78 percent. The Chinese data also
provided some support to gold.
Chinese gloom added to strain in emerging markets,
compounding worries the U.S. Federal Reserve's reduction in
stimulus will greatly curb the flow of money.
The data hit commodity-sensitive Australian and Canadian
dollars , both losing as much as half a percent
against the greenback in the wake of the exports plunge.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine added to investor
unease. In Crimea, unidentified armed men fired in the air as
they moved into a Ukrainian naval post in the latest
confrontation since Russian military groups seized control of
the Black Sea peninsula.
Russia said the United States had spurned an invitation to
hold new talks on resolving the crisis.
In the U.S. stock market, the Dow Jones industrial average
fell 34.04 points or 0.21 percent, to 16,418.68, the S&P
500 lost 0.87 points or 0.05 percent, to 1,877.17 and the
Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.775 points or 0.04 percent,
Shares of Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold lost 2.5
percent to $31.38 as the China data sent London copper to an
eight-month low. The S&P materials index lost 0.1
European shares, as measured by the pan-European
FTSEurofirst 300 index, closed down 0.5 percent, hit by
declines in shares of mining companies sensitive to China's
ferocious appetite for raw materials. A global stock index
was down 0.4 percent and an emerging market
stock index was down 1.2 percent.
German steel maker ThyssenKrupp, down 3 percent,
was among the top losers in Europe as Chinese steel and iron ore
futures slumped to their lowest levels ever on concerns about a
slowdown in the world's top commodity buyer.
"Any poor news from China is always going to hit short-term
market sentiment, especially in the mining sector, and fears of
slower growth will hit base metals," said IPR Capital director
On Wall Street, Boeing Co shares lost 1.3 percent to
$126.89 and were the biggest drag on the Dow and S&P 500, after
the plane maker said late Friday that "hairline cracks" had been
discovered in the wings of about 40 787 Dreamliners that are in
production, another setback for the company's newest jet.
Separately, the disappearance of a Malaysian jetliner, a
Boeing 777-200ER, is an "unprecedented aviation mystery," a
senior official said on Monday.
Shares of Freescale Semiconductor were down 1.3
percent at $23.09. Twenty Freescale employees were on the
missing Malaysian plane, mostly engineers and other experts
working to make the company's chip facilities in Tianjin, China,
and Kuala Lumpur more efficient, said Mitch Haws, vice
president, global communications and investor relations.
CHINESE DATA WEIGHS ON AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR
The Aussie last traded 0.6 percent weaker at $0.9017
, while the loonie bounced back at C$1.1101 after
hitting a low of C$1.1073 in Asian trading.
The Australian dollar had been tracking higher towards the
end of last week, boosted by signs of improvement in its own
economy. But like fellow commodity producer Canada, it depends
heavily on China extending a decade of robust expansion.
Authorities in Beijing continued a campaign to halt any
further appreciation of the yuan by setting its daily guidance
for the currency at the highest since mid-December.
The U.S. dollar held steady against major currencies,
supported by hopes that U.S. job growth would pick up in the
wake of last week's mildly encouraging report on hiring. The
dollar index was up 0.06 percent at 79.767.
In the metals markets, three-month copper on the London
Metal Exchange closed at $6,649 a tonne from $6,782 at
the close on Friday. It earlier slid as low as $6,608 a tonne,
its weakest since June 25 and within a hair of nearly three-year
Adding to the pressure was China's imports of unwrought
copper, which fell 30 percent in February from January due to
weak Shanghai copper prices. Imports were still up 27
percent from last year's levels.
The Chinese data also weighed on oil. Brent crude
fell 92 cents to settle at $108.08. U.S. oil dropped
$1.246 to $101.12 a barrel.
Gold prices were little changed, though disappointing data
helped underpin the market.
Spot gold inched down 5 cents to $1,339.80 an ounce.
Chinese gold prices were trading at a discount of $5-$6 an
ounce to spot prices, traders said, in a sign of weak demand.
Prices were at a premium of more than $20 at the beginning of