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Global stocks, gold little changed as trade war spurs concerns

By Herbert Lash
Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global equity markets traded flat on Monday on hopes officials would delay more U.S. tariffs set to take effect on Chinese goods this coming Sunday, while gold held firm as investors hedged against a possible escalation in the trade war.

Crude oil prices fell and the dollar slipped against the safe-haven Swiss franc after data showed Chinese exports in November shrank for the fourth straight month, reviving concerns about damage to global demand caused by the 17-month trade spat.

Investors braced for other political and economic news in a busy week. The U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting begins Tuesday, a UK election on Thursday could be decisive for Britain's plans to leave the European Union and a potential agreement related to a North American trade pact may be reached.

The Dec. 15 deadline that will usher in $156 billion in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods stirred caution, leading MSCI's all-country world index to trade flat while shares on Wall Street slid and European equities closed lower.

Investors have bid up stocks in recent weeks, pushing the three major Wall Street indexes close to record highs and MSCI's gauge of global equity performance to less than three points from its all-time peak.

Buoyed by Friday's blockbuster U.S. jobs report, traders and investors held out hope for a delay in the U.S. tariff deadline, while expecting more positive gestures from both sides.

Large-cap U.S. equities are trading at about 17.5 times forward earnings, noted Michael Mullaney, director of global markets research at Boston Partners in Boston. The S&P 500 could reach 3,250 or 3,300 next year if a trade agreement is reached, he said.

"The markets right now already have a favourable resolution (to the trade talks) baked into the prices," Mullaney said. But he added that if no deal is forthcoming, prices could fall 7% to 10%.

China hopes it can reach a trade agreement with the United States that satisfies both sides, Assistant Commerce Minister Ren Hongbin told reporters overnight.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe <.MIWD00000PUS> shed 0.13%, while stocks on Wall Street and in Europe closed lower. MSCI's emerging markets index rose 0.21%.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index <.STOXX> lost 0.24%.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> fell 105.46 points, or 0.38%, to 27,909.6. The S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 9.95 points, or 0.32%, to 3,135.96 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 34.70 points, or 0.4%, to 8,621.83.


Against the Swiss franc, which tends to draw investors during times of geopolitical or financial stress, the dollar was 0.23% lower.

The dollar index <.DXY>, a measure of the greenback against six other major trading currencies, slipped 0.05%, with the euro <EUR=> up 0.05% to $1.1063. The Japanese <JPY=> yen weakened 0.04% versus the greenback at 108.64 per dollar.

U.S. Treasury yields fell after rising three straight days as risk appetite ebbed after the weak Chinese trade data.

Benchmark 10-year notes <US10YT=RR> rose 5/32 in price to yield 1.8277%.

German exports rose unexpectedly in October, a morale boost for Europe's largest economy, but had little impact on European bonds.

Yields on Germany's 10-year bund <DE10YT=RR>, a benchmark for the euro zone, fell to -0.304%.

Oil prices fell on the Chinese export data.

Brent futures <LCOc1> fell 14 cents to settle at $64.25 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate oil futures <CLc1> slid 18 cents to settle down at $59.02 a barrel.

U.S. gold futures <GCcv1> settled mostly unchanged at $1,464.90 an ounce.



(Reporting by Herbert Lash; additional reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Nick Zieminski)