LONDON: Most stock markets dropped and the dollar rose Thursday as investors considered the prospect of more US interest rate hikes and US President Donald Trump’s latest broadside in his trade war with China.
It comes as the World Trade Organization downgraded its global trade forecast for this year and next, pointing to escalating trade tensions around the world.
In Europe, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index was the sole riser among major indices as shares in energy companies profited from rising crude prices.
Milan’s FTSE MIB index slumped as Italy’s populist government was set to unveil the outlines of its first budget, as fears deepen that it could breach EU fiscal rules and worsen the country’s already mammoth debt burden.
In Asia, Tokyo ended down one percent, following on from losses Wednesday on Wall Street.
“After initially treading water the (London) FTSE managed to push higher as Thursday went on, supported by BP and Shell’s Brent Crude-led gains, and the pound’s retreat against the dollar following last night’s Fed rate hike,” noted Connor Campbell, analyst at traders Spreadex.
“Over in the eurozone, the DAX and CAC managed to significantly reduce their losses as lunchtime approached,” he added.
“That the euro, like the pound, has slipped… against the dollar helped, with the single currency suffering from some post-Fed, pre-Italian budget blues,” Campbell said.
The US central bank on Wednesday hiked interest rates for a third time this year, as expected, citing an increasingly strong economy and jobs market, with Fed governor Jerome Powell saying he saw no vulnerabilities in the financial system.
Powell also said there remained risks from trade tensions, which could lift inflation, but added it was too soon to tell what impact it would have.
After the meeting, Wall Street’s three main indexes fell and the dollar gained on the prospect of higher rates through the year.
Elsewhere, Trump has ramped up his criticism of China, accusing it of trying to sway November’s mid-term elections against his Republican party because of the trade row and admitting his relationship with President Xi Jinping may have been permanently damaged.
His comments will do little to ease concerns about an all-out trade war between the two economic giants, which have exchanged tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods, with no sign of a let-up in hostilities.
On oil markets meanwhile, both main contracts have jumped since US energy secretary Rick Perry pushed back against speculation the government could tap its emergency stockpiles in order to lower prices.
Crude is at around four-year highs after OPEC and other key producers decided against lifting output, despite being urged to do so by Trump. —AFP