April 5, 2018 / 8:37 AM / 4 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-World stocks advance as trade war worries cool

* Investors expect U.S., China to negotiate after all

* European stocks hit 2-week high, U.S. futures rise

* World stock valuations cheapest in more than 2 years

By Kit Rees

LONDON, April 5 (Reuters) - World stocks edged higher on Thursday as investors used signs of an easing of Sino-U.S. trade tensions to dip back into riskier assets.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, climbed 0.4 percent, while shares in Europe jumped 1.6 percent to a two-week high.

Cyclical sectors including basic resources, autos and banks, hit particularly hard over the past two sessions in Europe, led gains.

Sentiment was lifted as Washington expressed a willingness to negotiate, after proposed U.S. tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods prompted swift retaliation from Beijing.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 percent, a day after it hit its lowest in almost two months.

Japan’s Nikkei ended 1.5 percent higher. Markets in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were closed for the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday on Thursday.

U.S. S&P 500 mini futures rose 0.5 percent, with Wall Street set to extend Wednesday’s rebound.

Proposed 25 percent U.S. tariffs on some 1,300 industrial technology, transport and medical products from China will be subject to a public comment and consultation period that is expected to last around two months.

“I think that the substance of trade restrictions and their real impact will be far less than the headlines,” said Jeffery Becker, Chairman and CEO at Jennison Associates in New York.

“U.S. and Chinese cross-border trade has grown significantly over the last decade and economic inter-dependence runs very deep, deeper than the actual trade numbers. And both countries have a lot to lose by escalating a trade war.”

Many suspect Washington will likely back down on some fronts after Beijing threatened tariffs on soybeans, the top U.S. agricultural export to China.

It is considered one of the most powerful weapons in Beijing’s trade arsenal given the impact on Iowa and other farming states that backed Donald Trump in the presidential election.

“The U.S. administration will have to tread cautiously considering the risk this could hurt election prospects,” said Yukino Yamada, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.

Some argue that the global economy is currently running so well that it could cope with the impact of the proposed tariffs, which cover a fraction of world trade.

“We’ve had a few months now where markets have really been going sideways and progressively lower, but at the same time has data really rolled over? The answer is no,” Geoffrey Yu, head of the UK investment office at UBS Wealth Management, said.

“The underlying economy is actually chugging along which will increase the scope for upside surprises on the corporate front, on the economic front and at some point markets will have to catch up to that.”

U.S. economic data published on Wednesday underscored the prevailing bullish view on the economy. Private payrolls increased solidly in March as hiring rose across the board, boding well for Friday’s jobs data.

A correction since January has driven share price valuations down from record levels, attracting bargain hunters.

MSCI ACWI traded at 14.77 times its forward earnings, the lowest in more than two years.

Oil prices bounced back in tandem with global share prices, and on a surprise draw in U.S. crude stockpiles. U.S. crude futures traded at $63.52 per barrel, up 0.2 percent.

In the currency market, the recovery in risk appetite helped boost the dollar against the yen. The U.S. currency changed hands at 107.05 yen.

The euro was down slightly at $1.2260.

The Canadian dollar hit a five-week high of C$1.2745 per U.S. dollar while the Mexican peso held near a six-month high of 18.065 peso to the dollar hit the previous day, both helped by optimism over a NAFTA trade deal.

Reporting by Kit Rees, Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; editing by John Stonestreet

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