Stocks eked out meagre gains on Tuesday, amid worries the global economy was faltering after data showed manufacturing activity slowed last month, weakening appetite for risk.
MSCI’s All Country World Index, which tracks stocks in 47 countries, was higher by 0.03% by 0728 GMT, up for a fourth straight day.
Stocks had rallied globally after the United States postponed imposing another round of tariffs on Chinese products and the two countries agreed to continue negotiations on trade. But investors were skeptical of further gains for equities after discouraging manufacturing surveys in the past 24 hours and a U.S. threat of additional tariffs on European goods.
“It’s clear that the tariffs already in place will continue to take a toll on global and domestic growth and with Trump now turning his attention on Europe, the early bullish bias seems to ease again,” said Konstantinos Anthis, head of research at ADSS.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.2%, although plane maker Airbus dropped 1% as the United States stepped up pressure in the long-running dispute over aircraft subsidies.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office released a list of additional products – including olives, Italian cheese and Scotch whiskey – that could be subject to tariffs, on top of products worth $21 billion that were announced in April.
The new U.S. tariff threats against Europe also point to a worrisome prospect of a broadening trade dispute, said Michael McCarthy, chief markets strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, in a note to clients.
“The problem is the widening of the dispute. Europe, the U.S. and China account for almost two thirds of global GDP,” he said. “An ongoing disruption to trade between these three major economies, prosecuted for domestic political purposes, could sink global growth.”
E-mini futures for the S&P 500 index of stocks were lower.
Earlier, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.28%, helped by a 1.23% gain in Hong Kong shares as investors caught up to Monday’s global rally. Markets in Hong Kong had been closed on for a holiday.
But Chinese blue chips dipped 0.13% and Korean shares lost 0.3%. Japan’s Nikkei finished up 0.11%.
Australian shares were flat, pulling back from earlier gains after the Reserve Bank of Australia cut its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to a record low 1.0%, as expected. However, the RBA left limited room for more cuts, raising the possibility of unconventional policy easing.
The Australian dollar pulled up from recent lows to gain 0.32% against the U.S. dollar at $0.6985.
The safe-haven yen strengthened against the dollar, which fell 0.2% to 108.24 yen per dollar, and the euro was flat at $1.1288. The dollar index, which tracks the dollar against major rivals, was 0.1% lower at 96.758.
In debt markets, Italian government bonds rallied after Italy cut its 2019 budget deficit target to avoid European Union disciplinary action, potentially easing another major concern for markets.
In commodity markets, oil gained as OPEC agreed to extend supply cuts until next March, although prices were pressured by worries demand may ease amid hints of a slowdown in the global economy.
Brent crude was up 0.3% at $65.25 per barrel. U.S. crude rose 0.1% to $59.15 a barrel. Spot gold added over half a percent to $1,392.11 per ounce.
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