Investors seek safety on threat of wider U.S.-China spat

NEW YORK - Global equity markets slid on Wednesday as investors sought safety in bonds, the Japanese yen and Swiss franc amid renewed worries over the U.S.-China trade standoff after reports the United States has another Chinese tech firm in its sights.


Relief over Washington’s temporary relaxation of curbs against China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd faded after reports that the White House is considering further sanctions on Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision.

The yen and Swiss franc gained against the dollar and the price of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose, but the decline in U.S. and European equity markets was relatively subdued after recent sell-offs.

“The market is still expecting a resolution or at least a modification of some of the worrying aspects out there about the trade relationship,” said John Vail, chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management in New York.

“Clearly the situation is more fraught than it has been in the past,” Vail said. “But for the time being we’re still positive on equity markets globally.”

U.S. stocks pared modest losses after the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting showed their patient approach to monetary policy could remain in place “for some time,” a further sign policymakers see little need to change rates.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 42.7 points, or 0.16%, to 25,834.63. The S&P 500 lost 1.21 points, or 0.04%, to 2,863.15 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 6.50 points, or 0.08%, to 7,779.22.

MSCI’s gauge of stock performance in 47 countries across the globe shed 0.11%.

Major central banks around the world have accommodative monetary policies, which favors equities, Vail said.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares closed down a scant 0.07% while Germany’s trade-sensitive DAX closed 0.21% higher.

Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.03% higher and Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.05%. The Shanghai Composite Index closed down 0.5%.

Fears of another blacklisting have reinforced worries that U.S. President Donald Trump is looking beyond sealing a trade deal with China to a potentially bigger battle aimed at curbing Beijing’s technology ambitions.

The United States is at least a month from enacting proposed tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports as it studies the impact on consumers, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

A 30-day window would represent an accelerated schedule compared to previous rounds of U.S. tariffs. The next batch of levies would be ready when Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a G20 leaders summit in Japan on June 28-29.

The pound fell to its lowest level since early January, after Prime Minister Theresa May’s final gambit to get a Brexit deal approved failed dramatically.

Investors sought havens in the Swiss franc, Japanese yen and German government bonds. [FRX/] [GVD/EUR]

The yen strengthened away from two-week lows against the dollar, rising 0.20% to 110.30 yen, while the Swiss franc was higher against the euro and the dollar. The euro fell 0.01% against the dollar to $1.1159.

In commodities, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell $1.71 to settle at $61.42 per barrel after American Petroleum Institute data showed that U.S. crude stockpiles rose unexpectedly last week. [O/R]

Oil was also pressured by Saudi Arabia reiterating that it would aim to keep the market balanced and try to reduce tensions in the Middle East.

Brent crude futures lost $1.19 to settle at $70.99 per barrel.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 9/32 in price to yield 2.3927%.

Gold steadied, inching up off a two-week low.

U.S. gold futures settled 0.1% higher at $1,274.20 an ounce.