Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Picture: REUTERS
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Picture: REUTERS

London — World stocks slipped on Monday, halting a four-day recovery rally as anxiety surrounding global trade conditions and rising US interest rates dampened risk appetite.

European shares followed Asia lower as investors readied for US congressional mid-term elections on Tuesday, while sterling briefly climbed on a newspaper report that a Brexit agreement was imminent.

Oil prices fell as the reimposition of US sanctions against Iran’s fuel exports was softened by waivers that will allow some countries to still import Iranian crude, at least temporarily.

US stock futures were down 0.3% amid concerns a trade deal between the US and China may not be struck soon.

“After a four-day rally people tend to become a bit exhausted — and just generally I feel like everyone’s on hold until the (end-November) G20 and also the Fed coming up,” said Gregory Perdon, CIO at Arbuthnot Latham.

“Our sense is absolutely that there’s a lot of cash on the sidelines right now.”

Overnight, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 1.2%, slipping back towards last week’s 18-month trough.

Chinese blue-chips fell after White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow denied Washington has drafted a trade agreement with Beijing.

President Xi Jinping acknowledged conditions abroad had created some challenges for the Chinese economy, but promised to lower import tariffs and continue to broaden market access.

“The market hasn’t been paying as close attention as they might normally because they’ve been a bit distracted by the spectre of a trade war. But the policy response out of China has been massive,” said Arbuthnot Latham’s Perdon.

Emerging stocks tumbled 0.9%.

With the Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, the prospect of even tighter US monetary policy after strong economic data is also on investors’ minds.

Markets are now pricing in a higher probability of a December rate hike with further tightening to 2.75%-3% seen through 2019.

Tighter monetary policy, a stronger dollar, and trade tariffs have created what Citi strategists call “Trump’s triple tightening” this year.

“This ... has slowed growth and raised risks around the world,” they wrote.

Investors were also cautious ahead of the US midterm elections.

Opinion polls show a strong chance the Democratic Party could win control of the House of Representatives after two years of wielding no practical political power in Washington, with Trump’s Republican Party likely to hold the Senate.

“What’s spooking the market is not Congress or Senate — what’s spooking the market is the volatility of Trump,” said Perdon. “I’m not convinced if there’s a change of control that would be able to temper that.”

Brexit hopes boost sterling

Sterling briefly jumped to a two-week high on hopes of a Brexit deal, before paring gains to trade up 0.2% at $1.2990.

A Sunday Times report that an all-UK customs deal will be written into the agreement governing Britain’s withdrawal from the EU drove the pound to $1.3062, its highest since October 22.

May’s office said the report was speculative, but that 95% of the withdrawal agreement was settled and negotiations were ongoing.

The dollar index that measures it against a basket of major currencies was little changed. The euro held flat at $1.1389.

Core eurozone bond yields fell as expectations of faster US rate hikes, doubts over Sino-US trade talks and the mid-term elections prompted more defensive positioning.

Italian bond yields rose, however, driving bank stocks down 1.8%.

Italy’s FTSE MIB was Europe’s worst-performing index as Goldman Sachs analysts predicted more cuts to earnings forecasts for Italian lenders, cutting BPER Banca and Intesa Sanpaolo to “sell”.

US crude fell 0.3% and Brent was down 0.2%.

Reuters

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