Business Standard

Global Markets: Stocks pin hopes on U.S.-China trade talks after brutal year


Reuters LONDON, Dec 31
By Marc Jones
LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) - World share and commodity prices rose on Monday as hints of progress on the U.S.-China trade standoff provided a glimmer of optimism in what has been a punishing 2018 for markets globally.
Europe's STOXX 600 followed Asia's lead to push 0.4 percent higher and Wall Street futures were up 1 percent as traders tried to overcome the worst year for equities since the 2008 financial crisis.
Sentiment had improved when U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that he held a "very good call" with China's President Xi Jinping on Saturday to discuss trade and claimed "big progress" was being made.
The Wall Street Journal reported the White House was pressing China for more details of how it might increase U.S. exports and loosen regulations that stifle U.S. companies there.
Chinese state media were more reserved, saying Xi hoped the negotiating teams could meet each other half-way and reach an agreement that was mutually beneficial.
Economic data out of China was also unhelpfully mixed, with manufacturing activity contracting for the first time in two years, although the service sector improved.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares managed a 0.6 percent gain, but it was still down 16 percent for the year. A sub-index of top Chinese companies lost more than a quarter of its value.
The story was much the same across the globe, with most major stock indices deep in the red.
Paris made a respectable 1 percent on the day, but London's FTSE fell flat again. They are down 11 and 12 percent for the year respectively. Germany's export-heavy DAX has had it worse, losing more than 18 percent of its value.
E-Mini futures for Wall Street's S&P 500 had gained 0.8 percent ahead of U.S. trading. The index is off almost 10 percent for December, its worst month since February 2009, down 15 percent for the quarter and 7 percent for the year.
"Simply looking at the markets would suggest that the global economy is headed into recession," said Robert Michele, chief investment officer and head of fixed income at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
"However, while we agree the global economy is in a growth slowdown, we don't see an impending recession," he said, in part because the Federal Reserve could provide a policy cushion.
"Already, commentary out of the Fed suggests that it is nearing the end of a three-year journey to normalise policy," argued Michele.
Indeed, Fed fund futures have now largely priced out any rate increase for next year and now imply a quarter-point cut by mid-2020.
The Treasury market clearly thinks the Fed is done. Yields on two-year debt have fallen to just 2.52 percent from a peak of 2.977 percent in November.
The $15.5 trillion market is heading for its biggest monthly rally in 2 1/2 years, according to an index compiled by Bloomberg and Barclays.
European bond markets were closed on Monday, but the drop in U.S. yields has undermined the dollar in recent weeks. Against a basket of currencies, it was on track to end December with a loss of 0.8 percent but remained up on the year.
The dollar has also had a tough month against the yen. It lost 2.8 percent this month and was last trading at just under 110. However, 2018 was mostly stable for the pair, trading all year in a range of 104.55 to 114.54.
The euro was on track to end the month higher at $1.1450 but nursing losses of almost 5 percent over the year. Sterling made a last push to $1.28, but Brexit woes have cost it more than 5 percent.
That was trivial compared with the drop in oil prices --Brent crude is down almost 40 percent since its peak in October. It was last up $1.22 cents at $54.40 a barrel but down 20 percent for the year. U.S. crude futures nudged up 96 cents to $46.29.
Gold rallied almost 5 percent in the past month to stand at $1,283 an ounce.
Copper, aluminium, zinc and nickel, however, were all down 17 to 26 percent this year. The industrial metals are sensitive to China's economy, which consumes almost half the global supply.
"The supply side is tight, but my fear is that with demand weakening it will offset all these supply concerns so we could see inventories begin to pick up," said INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir.
(Reporting by Marc Jones, editing by Larry King)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Dec 31 2018 | 8:00 PM IST

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