World stock markets drop as US-China tensions weigh

May 29, 2020

Stock markets are down as tensions between the United States and China over issues like the pandemic and Hong Kong’s autonomy spooked investors

BANGKOK (AP) — Stock markets fell Friday in Europe and Asia and Wall Street appeared set to slip on the open as tensions between the United States and China over issues like the pandemic and Hong Kong's autonomy spooked investors.

Benchmarks slipped in Paris, Frankfurt and Tokyo, while U.S. futures were down slightly ahead of a news conference about China by President Donald Trump later in the day.

U.S. and Chinese officials have been trading harsh rhetoric recently on everything from Hong Kong to the response to the coronavirus outbreak. One fear is that further friction could lead to another punishing round of escalating tariffs between the two countries that would hit the global economy when it’s already in a severe recession due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The world awaits Trump’s news conference tonight and the market is reacting," Chris Weston of Pepperstone said in a commentary.

China’s National People’s Congress on Thursday approved a national security law aimed at suppressing secessionist and subversive activity in Hong Kong, overriding any potential opposition by local lawmakers.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the law means Washington may no longer treat the former British colony, already reeling from anti-government protests and the pandemic, as autonomous from Beijing. That could undermine the city's status as a major center for trade and finance.

Germany's DAX lost 0.9% to 11,675 and the CAC 40 in France slipped 0.6% to 4,743. Britain's FTSE 100 gave up 1% to 6,155. U.S. markets were poised for losses, with the future contract for the S&P 500 0.2% lower and the future for the Dow industrials down 0.4%.

French carmaker Renault said it would shed 15,000 jobs over three years and reduce its capacity, just after ally Nissan announced plant closures in Europe and Asia.

Annual inflation in the eurozone fell to just 0.1% in May, from 0.3% in April, reflecting both a slide in oil prices and weak demand for many goods outside of food.

Weak economic data from Japan also cast a pall, as the government reported that industrial production fell more than 9% in April from the month before, while retail sales dropped nearly 10%, month-on-month. That was the biggest fall since a sales tax hike in 1997.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 0.7% to 22,961.47, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2% to 21,877.89. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 skidded 1.6% to 5,755.70.

The Kospi in South Korea added 0.1% to 2,029.60, while the Shanghai edged 0.2% higher to 2,852.35.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.67% from 0.70% late Thursday. It tends to reflect sentiment about the economy’s strength and inflation.

A barrel of U.S. crude oil for delivery in July lost 88 cents to $32.83 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 90 cents to settle at $33.71 on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 85 cents to $35.18 per barrel. It rose 55 cents to $35.29 per barrel in London.

The dollar bought 107.16 Japanese yen, down from 107.64 yen late Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1139 from $1.1073.