World stocks edge higher ahead of trade talks, Brexit

World stocks edge higher ahead of trade talks, Brexit

Reuters  | Feb 11, 2019 10:40AM ET

World stocks edge higher ahead of trade talks, Brexit

By David Randall

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock markets globally edged higher on Monday as investors eyed the resumption of trade talks between the United States and China and watched for signs of progress on Brexit.

European markets rebounded from last week's declines after Chinese shares rose 1 percent on the first day of trading after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 7.55 points, or 0.03 percent, to 25,113.88, the S&P 500 gained 3.92 points, or 0.14 percent, to 2,711.8 and the Nasdaq Composite added 17.81 points, or 0.24 percent, to 7,316.00.

Worries about a slowdown in global growth, the U.S.-China trade dispute and the possibility of another U.S. government shutdown have been foremost in investors' minds. At the same time, Britain is due to leave the European Union in six weeks though it still has no exit plan in place. Data on Monday showed the British economy grew last year at its slowest since 2012.

"The risk remains that investors are unwilling to commit to a breakout until we see what emerges from U.S.-China trade negotiations and Brexit," said John Hardy, head of FX strategy at Saxo Bank.

China struck an upbeat note as the trade talks resumed, but it also expressed anger at a U.S. Navy mission through the disputed South China Sea, casting a shadow over the prospect for improved Beijing-Washington ties.

The two sides are trying to come up with a deal before March 1, when U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.

Safe-haven bonds and the dollar have gained amid the prolonged uncertainty. The dollar reached its highest in six weeks against a basket of other currencies, rising for an eighth consecutive day as investors piled into the greenback.

Worries about Europe's economic slowdown and falling inflation expectations dominated morning trade in debt markets.

The yield on Germany's 10-year Bund, considered the risk-free benchmark for the region, held close to 0.10 percent after touching 0.077 percent on Friday, its lowest since October 2016. The European Commission downgraded its euro zone growth forecasts last week.

U.S. benchmark 10-year notes last fell 8/32 in price to yield 2.659 percent, compared with 2.63 percent late on Friday.

A collapse in talks between U.S. Democratic and Republican lawmakers has meanwhile raised fears of another government shutdown.

"Trade talks and shutdown (worries) are really weighing on markets," said Sebastian Fellechner, rates strategist at DZ Bank. "We don't see any major movements because of the general and global uncertainty."

The rising threat to growth means equity markets will focus on earnings from major U.S. companies for clues about the health of consumer shares. These include Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) Co, PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) Inc, Walmart (NYSE:WMT) Inc, Home Depot Inc (NYSE:HD), Macy's Inc and Gap Inc (NYSE:GPS).

Analysts now expect first-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies to decline 0.1 percent from a year earlier. That would be the first such quarterly profit decline since 2016, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Oil prices slipped on concern about slowing global demand and a pick-up in U.S. drilling activity.

U.S. crude was 0.8 percent lower at $52.31 per barrel. Brent was 0.2 percent lower at $61.97.

© Reuters. Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York

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