Shares snap seven-day winning streak; US inflation next hurdle

A woman wearing a kimono walks past an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, May 14, 2019. — Reuters pic
A woman wearing a kimono walks past an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, May 14, 2019. — Reuters pic

LONDON, June 12 — World share markets snapped a seven-day winning streak today as the White House took a tough line on trade talks with China, while an impending reading on US inflation was set to refine the odds of an early cut in interest rates there.

Europe’s main markets followed Asia by declining early on. London’s FTSE, the DAX in Frankfurt and CAC40 Paris were down 0.2 per cent to 0.4 per cent as traders trimmed some of June’s 4 per cent gains.

Benchmark government bond yields fell as caution grew. FX dealers kept the dollar near an 11-week low before the US data, having priced in the first US rate cuts 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 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. Wall Street’s recent rally ended yesterday.

Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.3 per cent. Shanghai blue chips fell 0.7 per cent following a 3 per cent jump the day before.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 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 yesterday 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. With trade tensions rising, US growth slowing and hiring in May declining, markets have priced in at least two rate cuts by the end of 2019. Futures imply around an 80 per cent chance of an easing as soon as July.

That might change depending on what US consumer price data show later in the session. Headline inflation is expected to slow to 1.9 per cent, with the core rate steady at 2.1 per cent.

OIL TOILS 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 gained to US$1.1336, just short of the recent three-month high of US$1.1347. The dollar fell against the yen to 108.25 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 weakened before a central bank that’s expected to leave Turkey’s main interest rate unchanged at 24 per cent. In commodity markets, all the chatter of rate cuts kept gold near 14-month highs at US$1,335.51 per ounce.

Oil prices dropped over 2 per cent 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 US$1.4 cents to US$60.87, while US crude lost $1.2 to US$52.10 a barrel. — Reuters

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