Global stocks falter on trade uncertainty; sterling gains

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar slid and global equity markets traded little changed on Thursday as enthusiasm over Apple shares was offset by doubts about the likelihood of a “phase one” trade deal before a new round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports begins in 10 days.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Treasury yields rose on reports indicating a resilient U.S. economy, including a fall in weekly jobless claims and a decline in the U.S. trade deficit, which suggested trade could contribute to growth in the fourth quarter.

But gold edged higher as mixed messages on the U.S-China trade negotiations stirred uncertainty. U.S. President Donald Trump’s remarks on trade during his London visit for the NATO summit baffled investors. Trump said talks with China were going “very well” at one meeting while warning at another that a deal may come only after U.S. elections in November 2020.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS rose 0.21%, lifted by gains overnight in Asia and Apple APPL.O on Wall Street. Citigroup raised its price target for the largest U.S. company by market cap to $300 from $250 a share. Apple rose $1.33 to $265.24.

Trump again reiterated on Thursday that talks with China were “going well” and he said something could happen regarding tariffs on Dec. 15, “but we’re not discussing that.”

Trump also said the United States may take action on trade with countries that are not contributing enough to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In addition to the conflicting statements on trade, and with impeachment hearings in Congress, some investors see Trump as perhaps being weakened slightly, said Rick Meckler, a partner at Cherry Lane Investments, a family investment office in New Vernon, New Jersey.

U.S. tariffs on about $156 billion of Chinese imports that are set to begin Dec. 15, and Trump suggesting he would slap tariffs on French imports, have created uncertainty, he said.

“If the (China) tariffs go into effect, and if we start new trade wars with Europe, most investors will be looking to reduce their stock exposure,” Meckler said. “With that period nearby, investors are reluctant to commit to new purchases.”

The pan-regional STOXX 600 index .STOXX closed down 0.13%.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 26.74 points, or 0.1%, to 27,676.52. The S&P 500 .SPX gained 4.48 points, or 0.14%, to 3,117.24 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 2.88 points, or 0.03%, to 8,569.55.

U.S. economic reports countered data earlier this week that showed manufacturing activity contracted for a fourth straight month in November, a slowdown in growth in the services sector and a drop in construction spending in October.

The dollar fell for a fifth straight session as some traders worried about the week’s economic data. A stronger euro and strengthening British pound also hurt the greenback.

Sterling has gained more than 1.5% this week against the dollar as the ruling Conservative Party will likely win a majority in next week’s election and end 3-1/2 years of Brexit-related uncertainty by taking Britain out of the European Union.

The dollar index .DXY fell 0.22%, with the euro EUR= up 0.19% to $1.1097. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.09% versus the greenback at 108.79 per dollar.

Sterling GBP= was last trading at $1.3156, up 0.40% on the day.

Investors remained focused on how much damage the trade war is causing around the world and whether the signs of economic stabilization seen in the euro zone will continue.

German industrial orders fell unexpectedly and retail sales in the euro zone fell at their sharpest rate this year in October. Overall, the euro zone economy grew at a modest pace in the third quarter.

Germany's blue-chip index .GDAXI, home to major industrial exporters, fell 0.48%.

German 10-year bond yields rose slightly more than 2 basis points to -0.2930 percent DE10YT=RR. Other core government bond yields also moved between 1 and 2 bps BE10YT=RR.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note US10YT=RR fell 6/32 in price to yield 1.7999%.

Oil prices rose on expectations the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied oil producers will deepen production cuts in an effort to prop up prices and prevent a glut next year.

Brent crude LCOc1 futures rose 39 cents to settle at $63.39 a barrel. U.S. crude CLcv1 settled unchanged at $58.43 a barrel.58.42

U.S. gold futures GCv1 settled up 0.2% at $1,483.10 per ounce.

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Dan Grebler