World share markets snapped a seven-day winning streak on Wednesday as the White House took a tough line on trade talks with China, while a barely visible rise in US inflation kept up talk of an early cut in interest rates there.
Europe’s main markets and Wall Street futures both followed Asia lower. London’s FTSE, the DAX in Frankfurt and CAC40 in Paris fell between 0.4 per cent to 0.8 per cent as traders trimmed June’s near 4 per cent gains.
Benchmark government bonds rallied as the caution returned and the dollar hovered near an 11-week low as the 0.1 per cent gain in the US consumer price index bolstered traders’ bets on the first Fed rate cut since the financial crisis.
“I think we are in for a very nervous wait until next week’s FOMC meeting,” Saxo Bank’s head of FX strategy, John Hardy, said.
“You have had the markets taking out aggressive positions on where the Fed is going to go and everybody is wondering whether they are ready to deliver as much, in terms of guidance, as has been priced in.” Chinese inflation was in the mix, too. Figures overnight showed it picked up to a 15-month high of 2.7 per cent, mainly because of surging pork prices. Excluding food, inflation rose only 1.6 per cent and with car sales also showing their worst ever monthly drop, it suggested plenty of scope for more stimulus.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan had slipped 0.6 per cent after two days of gains and after Wall Street’s recent rally had stalled on Tuesday.
Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.3 per cent and Shanghai blue chips fell 0.7 per cent following a 3 per cent jump the day before.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was the big drag though losing 1.7 per cent as demonstrators stormed roads next to government offices to protest against a bill that would allow people to be sent to China for trial.
“The impact was short-lived in the past,” noted Alex Wong, director at Ample Finance Group in Hong Kong. “This time people will look at how the US reacts to this kind of news. The US attitude towards Hong Kong and China are also not the same.”
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was holding up a trade deal with China and had no interest in moving ahead unless Beijing agrees to four or five “major points”, which he did not specify. He said interest rates were “way too high” and the Federal Reserve had “no clue”.
Fed policymakers will meet on June 18-19 against the backdrop of rising trade tensions, slowing US growth and a sharp step-down in hiring in May that have led markets to price in at least two rate cuts by the end of 2019.
Futures imply around an 80 per cent chance of a rate cut as early as July.
Trump also alarmed currency markets by tweeting that the euro and other currencies were “devalued” against the dollar, putting the United States at a “big disadvantage”.
The euro eased to $1.1318, just short of the recent three-month high of $1.1347. The dollar fell against the yen to as low as 108.20 and stalled on a basket of currencies at 96.608.
“The President’s tweets on the USD have the potential to have much more lasting impact in the coming election year,” said Alan Ruskin, global head of G10 FX strategy at Deutsche Bank.
“Global conditions are nicely set for what has colourfully been described as a ‘currency war’ or a currency race to ‘the bottom’.” The Turkish lira popped higher as its central bank left its interest rate at 24 per cent while in commodity markets, all the chatter of rate cuts kept gold near 14-month highs at $1,335.51 per ounce.
Oil prices dropped over 2 per cent again though as concern about a global economic slowdown offset expectations that Opec and its allies will extend their supply curbs.
Hedge fund managers have been liquidating bullish oil positions at the fastest rate since late 2018 amid growing economic fears.
Brent crude futures fell $1.2 cents to $61.05 a barrel, while US crude lost $1.4 to $51.83 a barrel.