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Stocks flat as Turkey worries offset U.S.-China trade talks

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08/17/2018 | 05:19pm CEST
Specialist trader Meric Greenbaum works at his post on the floor of the NYSE in New York

NEW YORK - Another steep decline in the Turkish lira on Friday pushed emerging market equities lower and kept other world markets cautious, overshadowing hopes that an upcoming U.S.-China meeting would relieve concerns over trade tariffs.

MSCI's All-Country World index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, fell less than 0.1 percent, leaving the index on track for its third straight weekly decline.

A Chinese delegation led by Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen will meet U.S. representatives, China's Ministry of Commerce said in a statement, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that talks will take place in Washington on Aug. 21 and 22.

The world's two largest economies are due to slap tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods on Aug. 23, in addition to levies that took effect on July 6.

"There is still a great deal of difference between agreeing to talk and coming to an agreement," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

"For now it appears an escalation has become less likely, hence (Thursday's) rebound in equity markets," he added, referring to an overnight rally on Wall Street.

In mid-morning trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 19.62 points, or 0.08 percent, to 25,578.35, the S&P 500 lost 2.28 points, or 0.08 percent, to 2,838.41 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 42.53 points, or 0.54 percent, to 7,763.99.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 0.34 percent.

Turkey's lira tumbled as much as 8.5 percent to 6.3 per dollar, having recovered ground rapidly in recent days. It was last down by about 4 percent.

The currency plunged to a record low of 7.24 per dollar at the start of the week as a worsening of relations between Turkey and the United States added to losses driven by concerns over President Tayyip Erdogan's influence over monetary policy. The currency has lost a third of its value this year.

The United States warned Turkey to expect more economic sanctions unless it hands over detained American pastor Andrew Brunson, as relations between the two countries took a further turn for the worse.

Memories of past emerging market crises, such as the Asian financial turmoil of 1997 and Turkey's 2001 crisis, haunted investors this week and prompted selling across emerging market assets as a whole. That left emerging market stocks in a technical bear market, or a 20 percent drop from recent highs.

European banks and copper also fell into bear market territory.

Elsewhere, the dollar dipped against a basket of six major currencies, moving further away from its highest levels since June 2017 hit earlier in the week as investors bought the U.S. currency in a flight to safety.

U.S. crude rose 0.55 percent to $65.82 per barrel and Brent was last at $71.87, up 0.62 percent on the day.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 5/32 in price to yield 2.8551 percent, from 2.871 percent late on Thursday.

(Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

By David Randall

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
DJ INDUSTRIAL 0.04% 25574.91 Delayed Quote.3.40%
NASDAQ 100 -0.69% 7326.5875 Delayed Quote.15.29%
NASDAQ COMP. -0.58% 7763.6341 Delayed Quote.13.08%
S&P 500 0.79% 2840.69 Real-time Quote.5.41%
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