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Fresh Trade Threat Drags on Global Stocks

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07/11/2018 | 11:31am CEST

By Ben St. Clair
-- U.S. proposes new tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods
-- Treasury yields decline, dollar edges up
-- Crude futures, copper fall

Stocks and commodity prices fell sharply Wednesday as concerns over escalating trade tensions threatened to erase the week's gains.

The Trump administration said Tuesday it would assess 10% tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods. China called the move "totally unacceptable" in a statement attributed to an unnamed ministry spokesman and vowed to roll out unspecified countermeasures.

The news drove Asian stocks down, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropping 1.3% amid losses in tech companies and China's Shanghai Composite Index falling 1.8%. Futures pointed to a 0.8% opening loss for the S&P 500 while the Stoxx Europe 600 was down 1.2% in midmorning trading, pushed lower by shares of mining, auto and oil-and-gas companies.

A response from China would mean "moving from a trade conflict to a trade war between the two superpowers," analysts at Commerzbank said in a note Wednesday.

In Europe, shares of BP were down 2.4% and Royal Dutch Shell dropped 1.6% as Brent crude, the global benchmark, reversed course from gains earlier in the week, falling 1.9% to $77.35 a barrel.

Shares of mining companies Glencore and Rio Tinto were also among the biggest decliners. Trade concerns have continued to weigh down commodities prices with copper futures down 2.7% to around one-year lows. The metal has been hit especially hard amid the escalating trade rhetoric and is seen by many analysts as a barometer for global economic health.

Less economically sensitive stocks in Europe, including food and beverage, utilities and real-estate companies, fared better than banks and auto companies, which have fallen sharply as trade tensions have appeared to escalate.

The declines were widespread Wednesday, Japan's Nikkei fell 1.2% and South Korea's Kospi was down 0.6%.

The tariffs, which wouldn't come into effect for at least two months, cover a variety of Chinese goods, including tuna, salmon and other fish, luggage, tires, dog leashes, handbags, baseball gloves, furniture, apparel and mattresses. Hearings on the proposed measures are scheduled to take place in late August.

Market participants had been tentatively optimistic on trade earlier in the week, driving stocks higher as they looked toward what are expected to be positive second-quarter earnings reports.

If stocks decline, it won't be due to earnings, Bob Phillips, managing principal at Spectrum Management Group, said Tuesday. Instead, the "trade war getting out of hand" would depress stocks, Mr. Phillips said.

Investors will also be keeping an eye on Wednesday's North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit as U.S. President Donald Trump reiterates criticism of what he sees as insufficient military spending from European allies.

Although the summit focuses on national security, he may also use the session to press his case that European Union nations are using 10% tariffs on automobiles to protect their market from U.S. vehicle exports.

Elsewhere in markets, yields on 10-year Treasurys fell to 2.835% from 2.873% on Tuesday. Yields fall as prices rise.

The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the U.S. currency against 16 others, was up 0.2%.

Bob Davis contributed to this article.

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
CHINA-SHANGHAI COMP 1.82% 2699.95 End-of-day quote.-18.53%
DJ INDUSTRIAL 0.71% 26246.96 Delayed Quote.6.18%
HANG SENG 1.20% 27417.71 Real-time Quote.-9.49%
KOSPI COMPOSITE INDEX -0.03% 2308.1 Real-time Quote.-6.18%
NASDAQ 100 0.80% 7494.3994 Delayed Quote.16.23%
NASDAQ COMP. 0.76% 7956.1068 Delayed Quote.14.38%
NIKKEI 225 1.08% 23672.52 Real-time Quote.1.45%
S&P 500 0.54% 2904.31 Real-time Quote.8.05%
US DOLLAR INDEX 0.15% 94.64 End-of-day quote.3.03%
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