Picture: 123RF/BLUE BAY
Picture: 123RF/BLUE BAY

London — Uncertainty about the fate of the trade negotiations between the US and China kept markets on their toes on Friday, with European stocks benchmarks mimicking their Asian peers and retreating from the previous session’s highs.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow and S&P 500 reached record closing highs on hopes of a truce to end the damaging tariff war, but a Reuters report that the White House opposed aspects of a tentative deal limited the day’s gains.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 opened down 0.4% at 405 points, 10 points from its April 2015 record of 415. S&P 500 futures retreated 0.1% after the New York benchmark hit its highest closing level ever on Thursday.

“The trade deal is the predominant driver” for markets at the moment, said Lars Kreckel, global equity strategist at Legal & General Investment Management, noting that this morning dip in markets was a just knee-jerk reaction to the latest news on the US-China front.

The mood contrasts with Thursday’s surge of optimism in global markets on news Beijing and Washington had agreed to roll back tariffs as part of a first phase of a trade deal. Worries the pact could fall apart are now prompting some investors to sell heading into the weekend.

Chris Jeffery, head of rates and inflation at the British financial service group said the “background music” to the trade row, a US Federal Reserve easing monetary policy and macro-economic indicators stabilising had helped the recent rally.

Germany’s DAX 30, a gauge of investors’ sentiment on trade, moved in synchronicity with the rest of the market and eased 0.4%.

German exports posted their biggest rise in almost two years in September, data showed on Friday, providing some relief amid widespread concern that Europe’s largest economy will dip into recession in the third quarter.

“Market participants are getting increasingly ‘long’ on good news”, said Stephen Gallo, European head of forex strategy at Canadian bank BMO. “The ‘payback’ in risk assets for a very downbeat picture earlier in the year looks unstoppable at the moment.”

In the meantime, crude oil futures fell amid lingering uncertainty over the long-awaited deal and rising crude inventories in the US. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was down 16c, or 0.3%, at $62.13 a barrel by 2.59am GMT, after gaining 0.9% in the previous session. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 56c, or 0.9%, at $61.73 a barrel. The contract rose 1.4% on Thursday.

Safe-haven gold, which tends to rise during times of uncertainty, was a tad firmer, up 0.1% at $1,469.4 an ounce, having hit a five-week low of $1.460.7 on Thursday.

Moves in the currency market were restrained. The dollar was treading water at ¥109.32, after reaching a five-month high of ¥109.49 the previous day. The euro was steady at $1.1050 as was the dollar index, unchanged at 98.154 after hitting three-week highs of 98.236 on Thursday.

A Reuters poll found that the dollar’s persistent strength is expected to continue well into 2020.

Reuters