Investors are digesting the prospect that the trade war between the United States and China could endure, taking a toll on businesses and consumers as the two countries ratchet up tariffs on each other’s exports.
The S&P 500 tumbled more than 2 percent on Monday, with trade-dependent companies hit the hardest after Beijing said it would retaliate against the Trump administration’s plan to raise tariffs on Chinese goods. After the losses it experienced last week, the benchmark index is now down more than 4 percent this month.
The drop is a turnabout for investors who had previously sloughed off concerns about the trade war’s impact on the global economy, corporate profits and American consumers.
They are now acutely focused on the daily trade twists, and the fallout in the financial markets has been swift. Shares of companies with significant exposure to China, including semiconductor makers that rely on production networks in the country, have fared badly in the past week.
On Monday, Apple, which counts China as a major market for the sale of its iPhone and other devices and leans heavily on Chinese suppliers to produce them, fell more than 4 percent. Boeing, one of the largest exporters in the United States dropped more than 3 percent. Wynn Resorts, which is heavily reliant on casino operations in Macau that cater to gamblers from mainland China, fell about 6 percent.
As stocks have wobbled over the past week, some analysts have argued that a decline was long overdue for a market that soared to a record high in the first four months of the year. There was a shift after President Trump expressed frustration over the state of trade talks between the world’s two largest economies. On Friday, Mr. Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese-made goods.
But signs of economic anxiety also appeared in other financial markets on Monday. The price of Treasury bonds rose, as investors sought the safety of government securities. Prices for soybeans and copper, both of which are sensitive to global growth and trade, dropped. Interest rates rose in corporate bond markets, an indication that investors were seeking higher premiums in response to the increased economic risks of a worsening trade fight.
“This would essentially be another thorn in the global economy’s side,” Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at consulting firm Oxford Economics.
Although the global economy continues to expand, the pace of growth in has slowed in recent months in much of the world. On April 9, the International Monetary Fund reduced its growth forecast for 2019 to 3.3 percent, which would be among the slowest annual paces in the past decade. In adjusting its forecast, the fund citing, in part, the tensions between China and the United States. It also said it expected about 70 percent of the global economy to slow this year.
Stocks in Europe added to earlier losses in afternoon trade on Monday, with the CAC 40 index in France and the Dax in Germany down by more than 1 percent.
In Asia, where trading ended before Beijing’s tariff announcement, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.2 percent, and the Shenzhen Composite Index fell 1.1 percent. In South Korea, the Kospi index fell 1.4 percent, Taiwan’s Taiex index fell by a similar amount and Japan’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.7 percent.
EU incoming economy chief calls for less restrictive budget policies
By Gavin Jones
ROME (Reuters) – The European Union needs looser budgetary policies and an overhaul of its fiscal rulebook, the bloc’s designated economics commissioner said in an article published on Sunday.
Writing in Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Paolo Gentiloni said that while the EU’s deficit and debt rules must not be ignored, they needed to be “reviewed and updated”.
“It’s time for countries which have fiscal space to use it, in an overall context of less restrictive budgetary policies,” Gentiloni, due to replace Pierre Moscovici as economic and financial affairs commissioner on Nov. 1, said.
The former Italian prime minister warned that with the EU economy slowing, “the risks of a prolonged period of low growth must not be overlooked” and the task of stimulating the economy “cannot be left to monetary policy alone”.
Gentiloni will have an important role in scrutinizing Italy’s draft 2020 budget which was submitted to the Commission last week.
The budget plan raises next year’s structural deficit — which excludes the effect of GDP growth fluctuations — by 0.1% of gross domestic product, reversing a previous commitment by Rome to lower it by 0.6%.
EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told Reuters on Friday that Brussels would ask Italy for “clarifications” over its budget intentions.
However, even though the budget seems to flout EU rules, many analysts expect the Commission to take a lenient approach and avoid a prolonged dispute with Rome like the one that broke out last year when Italy had a less EU-friendly government.
Gentiloni, who comes from the pro-Europe Democratic Party which now governs with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said it was crucial that the budget plan comes from a government that has a constructive approach toward the EU.
Among what he termed new instruments needed help growth and stability, Gentiloni cited an EU-wide unemployment insurance scheme, without going into details.
(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Canada News Media)
Lebanese continue protests, demand government to fix economy
Demonstrators, who have been on the streets since Thursday, have pledged to continue marching despite the resignations late on Saturday of four government members from the key political party, Lebanese Forces.
Labour Minister Camille Abousleiman, one of the four to quit the government, told Al Jazeera shortly after the decision that they had “lost faith in the government’s ability to effect change and address the problem”.
Lebanese citizens have been suffering from tax hikes and dire economic conditions in the heavily indebted country.
Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86bn – more than 150 percent of gross domestic product, according to the finance ministry.
The grievances and anger at the government’s lack of solutions erupted into protests on Thursday, sparked by hikes in taxes including a proposed $0.2 tax on calls via messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
Such calls are the main method of communication for many Lebanese and, despite the government’s swift abandonment of the tax, the demonstrations quickly swelled into the largest in years.
“It is day four and protesters are back on the street. It’s not just in the capital Beirut, but across the country. The message they [protesters] are giving is of defiance and that they will continue to demand the resignation of the government,” said Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut.
“While there are tens of thousands on the street protesting, there are still people who are backing the political parties, so it is not going to be easy to bring a change. These people out there want a nationalist leader whose loyalty is to Lebanon and not a political party.”
In an attempt to appease demonstrators, Lebanon’s finance minister, following a meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, announced that they had agreed on a final budget that did not include any additional taxes or fees.
“We want everybody to join us on Sunday and also Monday to topple the government,” one protester said.
On Friday, Hariri gave a 72-hour deadline to his partners in government to agree on a solution to the country’s economic woes without imposing new taxes.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, whose movement is part of the government, warned on Saturday that a change in government would only worsen the situation.
The army on Saturday called on protesters to “express themselves peacefully without harming public and private property”.
|What is the solution to Lebanon’s economic and political crisis?|
On Saturday evening, thousands were packed for a third straight night into the Riyadh al-Solh square in central Beirut, despite security forces having used tear gas and water cannon to disperse similar crowds a day before.
Amnesty International said the security forces’ reaction was excessive, pointing out that the vast majority of protesters were peaceful.
“The intention was clearly to prevent protesters gathering – in a clear violation of the right to peaceful assembly,” it said.
Small groups of protesters have also damaged shop fronts and blocked roads by burning tyres and other obstacles.
The Internal Security Forces said 70 arrests were made on Friday on accusations of theft and arson.
But all of those held at the main police barracks were released on Saturday, the National News Agency (NNA) said.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
Finance Officials Focus on Economy
The IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, said the threat from trade wars was a chief point of discussion for finance officials.
She said the IMF has estimated that the tariffs already imposed or threatened could shave 0.8% off global growth by the end of next year. Much of that stems from the fallout on business confidence.
In trade wars, “everybody loses,” she said. “Policymakers ought to take very seriously their obligations to international cooperation in trade.”
The World Bank’s president, David Malpass, said this week’s finance discussions had focused on how to address multiple challenges.
“Growth is slowing, investment is sluggish, manufacturing activity is soft and trade is weakening,” he said. “Climate change and fragility are making poor countries more vulnerable.”
He said the World Bank was committed to helping to address these challenges to provide a better life for the 700 million people in the world living in extreme poverty.
The IMF, in an updated economic outlook, projected the global economy would expand by 3% this year, the weakest in a decade, and said 90 percent of the world was experiencing a downshift in growth. But the IMF forecast growth will accelerate slightly to 3.4% in 2020, still below the 3.6% rate in 2018.
Jubilee USA, a religious organization fighting global poverty, said in a statement that while the IMF outlined a number of serious threats, the recommendations for dealing with them fell short.
“Risky investing, trade tensions and developing countries borrowing too much are serious concerns for financial stability,” said Eric LeCompte, the group’s executive director.
While Trump’s trade policies were a prime topic of discussion at the meetings, finance officials for the most part avoided direct criticism of the American president.
Christine Lagarde, who dealt with the Trump administration during her last three years as head of the IMF, was a bit more direct in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Asked about Trump’s trade war with China, she said it would give the world’s economy “a big haircut” and should be resolved by having all parties “sit down like big men, many men in those rooms and put everything on the table, and try to deal bit by bit, piece by piece, so that we have certainty.”
On Trump’s frequent Twitter attacks on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, Lagarde said central bankers need to be independent to do their jobs well.
“Market stability should not be the subject of a tweet here or a tweet there. It requires consideration, thinking, quiet and measured and rational decisions,” she said.
Lagarde is scheduled to take over on Nov. 1 as the head of the European Central Bank, which manages monetary policy for the 19 countries who use the euro currency.
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