Global markets jittery as Trump fears persist

Global stock markets failed to recoup pre-weekend losses Monday, with slips in Japan and Europe and stasis in the United States as traders eyed geopolitical uncertainty and hoped for hints from central bank chiefs Friday.

US trading opened flat at 1.30pm after slumps in Europe and Japan, suffering from lingering concern over President Donald Trump’s volatile administration and unclear prospects for achieving economic reform.

Worries over Trump’s stalled economic agenda and upcoming high-stakes Washington fights had hurt global stocks on Friday, with valuations pressured further by the terror attacks in Spain as investors sought haven investments such as the yen and gold.

“Global sentiment remains jittery on exacerbated US political uncertainty and geopolitical concerns, while the Fed’s key Jackson Hole symposium looms on the week’s horizon,” commented Schwab analysts.

The cautious mood on markets comes as investors look to a central bankers’ gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Friday for hints about a future with less monetary stimulus on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Traders are keen to get more insight into the plans of the two central banks” direct from Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen and European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, Oanda analyst Craig Erlam pointed out.

The Fed is expected to announce next month that it will wind down its near-$4.5-trillion balance sheet.

And ECB policymakers appear set to unveil in autumn a long-awaited “tapering”, or gradual reduction of its tens of billions in monthly bond purchases.

Meanwhile, major takeover activity within the oil and car sectors failed to lift overall sentiment.

European markets were little moved by French oil giant Total’s announcement that it would buy Maersk Oil, a unit of the Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, for $7.45 billion (6.35 billion euros).

Total shares gained 0.6 percent to 42.90 euros, while in Copenhagen, A.P. Moller-Maersk won 3.9 percent.

Total said the deal would make it the second-largest operator in the North Sea, with substantial operations in Britain, Norway and Denmark.

Elsewhere Monday, China’s Great Wall Motor signalled an intention to make an ambitious offer to buy all or part of Italian-American car maker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

FCA shares jumped 4.0 percent to 11.14 euros in Milan.

Asian traders moved cautiously Monday following fresh turmoil in the White House.

While tensions over North Korea have eased, the deadly terror attack in Barcelona on Thursday is keeping focus on geopolitical issues.

There are fears that Trump’s promises of tax reform and other pro-business measures will not see the light of day, with his support from corporate America damaged by his much-criticised response to a white supremacist rally in Virginia over a week ago.

Hopes that his tax and spending plans would fire up the world’s top economy had helped stoke a rally in global markets and the dollar at the start of the year but that has foundered in recent months.

Upheaval in the US administration continued Friday after Trump’s top adviser Steve Bannon was dismissed — marking the fifth inner circle casualty in just six months — while there has been talk too that his economic adviser Gary Cohn would step down.

Tokyo stocks ended 0.4-percent down Monday as exporters were hurt by a stronger yen, while Hong Kong was up 0.5 percent and Shanghai added 0.6 percent.

Sydney eased 0.4 percent and Seoul was 0.1 percent off. Wellington was slightly lower while Singapore was flat.

Key figures around 1330 GMT 

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,317.13 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.6 percent at 12,094.88 points

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.5 percent at 5,089.64 points

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,429.66 points

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 19,393.13 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.4 percent at 27,154.68 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 3,286.91 (close)

New York – Dow: FLAT at 21,671.36

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1784 from $1.1762 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2890 from $1.2885

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.82 yen from 109.22 yen

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 51 cents at $52.21 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 31 cents at $48.35

Tom Barfield
Tom Barfield
Reporter @AFP covering the German economy and the European Central Bank.
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