Stocks dip as trade worries halt record rally, dollar falls

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices slumped and a gauge of global equity markets on Friday edged away from an all-time high it nearly breached earlier in the week as doubts simmered over the outlook for signing an initial deal to ease U.S.-China trade tensions.

Gold prices rose and stocks on Wall Street slipped after China warned on Thursday it would take “firm counter measures” against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to ratify a bill backing protesters in Hong Kong.

“It is definitely a concern that the signing of the Hong Kong bill will be seen as an impediment to an agreement,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

“At this point, investors are also using this as an opportunity to take some profits,” Meckler said.

Tensions could be further frayed after two sources told Reuters that the U.S. government may expand its power to stop more foreign shipments of products with U.S. technology to China’s Huawei Technologies.

Selling intensified on Wall Street in the last hour of trading after the report on Huawei. All three of Wall Street’s major indexes set record highs earlier in the week on hopes for an imminent “phase one” U.S.-China trade deal.

MSCI’s all-country world index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, shed 0.48%, or about 4 points lower than a record peak of 550.63 it established in January 2018.

Country indices for Germany and France closed slightly lower and the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.44%.

The dollar fell from a six-week peak against a basket of currencies as the still unsigned U.S.-China trade deal kept investors on edge at the end of a holiday-shortened week due to the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and early close on Friday.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 112.59 points, or 0.4%, to 28,051.41. The S&P 500 lost 12.65 points, or 0.40%, to 3,140.98 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 39.70 points, or 0.46%, to 8,665.47.

The MSCI world index has climbed 2.3% this month, its third straight month of gains, helped in part by hopes the world’s two biggest economies are moving toward a resolution. The trade war has roiled financial markets and disrupted supply chains.

FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The index is up 20% this year, helped by lower interest rates and injections of government stimulus around the world.

With recent data showing a pick-up in economic growth and 10-year government debt yields likely to remain under 2%, the outlook for stocks is a Goldilocks scenario, said Dev Kantesaria, founder portfolio manager of hedge fund Valley Forge Capital Management, Wayne, Pennsylvania.

“We’re quite bullish on equities today and the reason for that is that the main driver of equities is interest rates,” Kantesaria said. “The news on trade, the elections, tax policy, etc., is largely noise,” he said.

Euro zone inflation data was the main piece of economic data in investors’ sights in Europe.

Inflation accelerated faster than expected in November, likely comforting European Central Bank policymakers - even if some factors pushing up prices may be temporary.

The latest “flash” data showed annual inflation jumped to 1% this month from 0.7% in October, outpacing expectations for 0.9%, as volatile food prices rose more than predicted.

Germany’s benchmark 10-year Bund yield last traded at -0.359%, little changed on the day and holding above one-month lows hit the previous day. French and Dutch yields were also off lows hit this week as investors fretted about U.S.-China trade talks.

Benchmark 10-year notes fell 3/32 in price to yield 1.7758%.

The day’s rise in gold prices kept the metal from posting its biggest monthly decline in three years.

Spot gold added 0.3% to $1,462.38 an ounce.

The dollar index fell 0.13%, with the euro up 0.12% to $1.102. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.08% versus the greenback at 109.45 per dollar.

Oil prices slumped in muted, post-Thanksgiving trade but still gained for the month on expectations the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries next week will extend a pact to throttle oil output beyond March.

Brent crude futures fell $1.44 to settle at $62.43 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures settled down $2.94 cents at $55.17. The 5% decline was the biggest single-day fall since Sept. 17.

Reporting by Herbert Lash, additional reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Chizu Nomiyama