Global stocks fall from 20-month highs on trade talk doubts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - World stock markets slid from 20-month highs on Thursday as uncertainty about a U.S.-China trade deal offset strong results from Apple and Facebook, while the dollar weakened as investors mulled whether the Federal Reserve will cut rates further.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Chinese officials doubt a comprehensive long-term trade deal with Washington and U.S. President Donald Trump is doable, Bloomberg reported, citing unidentified sources.

The trade spat between the world’s largest economies has been a major focal point for investors as it has disrupted supply chains and roiled financial markets for more than a year.

MSCI’s gauge of equity performance in 47 countries slid 0.15% from highs last reached in February 2018.

The dollar fell to a 10-day low against a basket of major currencies after the Fed cut rates on Wednesday.

The Fed lowered its policy rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a target range of 1.50% to 1.75%.

Investors remain concerned about a U.S. slowdown as the trade war continues, which could force the Fed’s hand.

“If things were to go negative, they are more likely to ease than raise interest rates,” said Steven Wieting, chief economist and investment strategist at Citi Private Bank in New York.

However, the underlying story has been the U.S. economy’s ability to outlast the downturn in manufacturing output, a development that recently has been underrated by the market, he said.

“It has further to go; just the fact we can absorb the shocks that we have,” Wieting said. “Production is going to go from declining to rebounding. That’s what is going to happen with earnings as well.”

European stocks fell. The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.49% and the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading regional shares fell 0.57%.

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The benchmark S&P 500 had been on pace for its biggest drop in nearly three weeks, after notching intraday record highs in the past three sessions, but pared losses at the close.

Corporate earnings were a bright spot. Apple Inc rose 2.26% after the iPhone maker forecast sales for the holiday shopping quarter ahead of expectations.

Facebook Inc gained 1.81% after reporting an uptick in users in lucrative markets and its third straight rise in quarterly sales growth..

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 140.46 points, or 0.52%, to 27,046.23. The S&P 500 lost 9.2 points, or 0.30%, to 3,037.57 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 11.62 points, or 0.14%, to 8,292.36.

MSCI’s emerging market index slid 0.07%.

The dollar index fell 0.36%, with the euro up 0.04% to $1.1152. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.78% versus the greenback at 107.98 per dollar.

Euro zone bond yields fell to two-week lows, on track for their sharpest daily fall in October after the Fed cut interest rates on Wednesday and as the report on U.S.-China trade tensions drove demand for safe-haven assets.

Yields on Germany’s benchmark 10-year bund fell to a low of -0.42% and were set for their biggest daily fall in October, the same as most other euro zone government bonds.

The price of benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rose 32/32 to push its yield down to 1.6840%.

Oil prices fell sharply after a leak on a key U.S. pipeline disrupted supply flows and on data showing weak factory activity in China, suggesting slowing global demand.

TC Energy Corp’s Marketlink crude pipeline was operating at reduced rates, three sources said, due to supply disruptions after TC Energy shut its Keystone pipeline due to a leak in North Dakota.

Traders said the Marketlink disruption pressured U.S. crude prices lower by making it harder to move oil out of the Cushing storage hub, the delivery point for WTI crude contracts.

Brent crude futures settled down 38 cents to $60.23 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 88 cents to settle at $54.18 a barrel.

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Dan Grebler and Tom Brown