Stocks meander on caution over trade talks, dollar gains

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar gained on Monday as optimism ebbed over a potential U.S.-China trade deal that President Donald Trump outlined last week, while a gauge of global equity markets was little changed as investors sought details about an agreement.

Gold gained and oil prices fell more than 3% at one point as scant information about the first phase of a Sino-U.S. trade deal undercut optimism over a thaw in the dispute that has sparked a slowdown in global growth.

A slide in Chinese exports picked up pace in September while imports contracted for a fifth straight month, evidence of further weakness in China’s economy as tariffs take their toll.

China’s exports fell 3.2% from a year earlier in September, the biggest fall since February, customs data showed.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 0.12% while the FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 of leading regional shares closed down 0.45%.

Stocks closed lower on Wall Street after trading on either side of break-even during the session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 29.23 points, or 0.11%, to 26,787.36. The S&P 500 .SPX lost 4.12 points, or 0.14%, to 2,966.15 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 8.39 points, or 0.1%, to 8,048.65.

“You’re pivoting from what was trade escalation in August and parts of September to trade de-escalation which markets celebrated at the end of last week,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

“Now moving forward it’s going to be about what exactly has been agreed to?”

FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 9, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Investors are awaiting more details on trade negotiations, talks over Britain’s departure from European Union and the release starting later this week of third-quarter earnings results, Arone said.

“I expect 2020 expectations to continue to be lowered and that could be a challenge to the market moving forward,” he said.

The U.S. benchmark S&P 500 ended Friday with its first weekly gain in a month after Trump signaled that Washington and Beijing had taken the first major step in easing tit-for-tat tariff measures.

Euro zone bond yields fell as caution regarding the trade talks encouraged investors back into fixed income after a hefty sell-off on Friday that sent borrowing costs to 2-1/2 month highs.

Trading in U.S. Treasuries was closed for the Columbus Day holiday.

Earlier in Asia, stock markets cheered news of a trade agreement. China's blue-chip CSI300 index .CSI300 gained 1.1% while the Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC rose 1.2%.

Markets in Tokyo were closed.

The greenback, Swiss franc and Japanese yen all weakened as optimism over the trade talks, together with the European Union and Britain restarting Brexit negotiations, encouraged investors into riskier assets.

The dollar index .DXY rose 0.23%, with the euro EUR= down 0.15% to $1.1023. The Japanese yen JPY strengthened 0.02% versus the greenback at 108.40 per dollar.

Sterling fell 0.74% to $1.2554 GBP=, retreating from a 15-week high of $1.2708 on Friday, on optimism Britain could reach a deal on Brexit with the EU.

A Brexit deal was hanging in the balance after diplomats indicated the EU wanted more concessions from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and that a full agreement was unlikely this week.

Oil futures fell about 2%, paring bigger losses earlier.

Brent crude LCOc1 dropped $1.16 to settle at $59.35 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 settled down $1.11 to $53.59 a barrel.

U.S. gold futures GCcv1 settled 0.6% higher at $1,497.6 an ounce.

Reporting by Herbert Lash in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Tom Brown