HONG KONG (AP) — World shares were mixed Monday as investors evaluated China’s annual economic growth forecast and pledges for further reforms. Italian shares slumped after uncertain election results paved the way for political deadlock.
KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 was up 0.4 percent at 5,159.70, Germany’s DAX rose 0.3 percent to 11,954.18 and Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.4 percent to 7,099.34. But Italy’s benchmark FTSE MIB sank 1.3 percent to 21,630.86. Wall Street was poised to open lower. Dow futures lost 0.2 percent to 24,487.00 and broader S&P 500 futures fell 0.2 percent to 2,683.70.
ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.7 percent to close at 21,042.09 and South Korea’s Kospi slipped 1.1 percent to end at 2,375.06. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng tumbled 2.3 percent to 29,886.39 but the Shanghai Composite in mainland China recouped losses, rising in the final minutes of trading to edge 0.1 percent higher to 3,256.93. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent to 5,895.00. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Southeast Asia also lost ground.
CHINA CONGRESS: Beijing set an annual growth target for the world’s No. 2 economy of “around 6.5 percent” for 2018. Premier Li Keqiang announced that at the opening of the annual legislative session. That’s down from a 6.9 percent expansion last year, but still robust. Li also outlined plans to forge ahead with an overhaul of state industry, ramp up military spending and pursue advanced technology.
SERVICES SURVEY: A survey showed that activity in China’s services industry cooled slightly last month but remained solidly in expansion mode. Caixin’s general services purchasing managers’ index dipped to 54.2 in February from 54.7 the previous month, on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 signify expansion.
TRUMP TARIFFS: U.S. President Donald Trump fanned fears of a trade war after announcing his intent last week to slap tariffs on metal imports. “Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change!” he tweeted on Sunday, after saying he wanted duties of 25 percent and 10 percent respectively. White House officials said protectionist policy measures will be made official in the next two weeks.
QUOTEWORTHY: “Concerns about a global trade war continue to weigh on investor sentiment,” said Hussain Sayed, chief market strategist at FXTM. “This trade fight will be messy and cause more volatility in equities, fixed income and currency markets in the short run.”
ITALIAN VOTE: Projections showed no single party or bloc emerged from Sunday’s election with enough support to win a majority in Parliament, setting the stage for extended political uncertainty. The forecasts showed a center-right coalition that includes an anti-migrant party taking a slight lead over the populist 5-Star Movement. Neither was close to the threshold needed to form a government. Rival anti-Europe parties garnered more than half the vote, a result that’s likely to unsettle the European Union and possibly financial markets.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to a fresh 17-month low, weakening to 105.51 Japanese yen from 105.74 late Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.2330 from $1.2320.
ENERGY: Oil futures extended gains. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 57 cents to $61.82 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in New York. The contract rose 26 cents to settle at $61.25 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 47 cents to $64.84 a barrel.
– Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Monday, March 5:
1. No Clear Winner In Italian Election
Italy’s national elections produced no outright winner, indicating that the country is set for a hung parliament as far-right, anti-establishment and euroskeptic parties staged a strong showing.
With two-thirds of the vote counted as of Monday morning local time, results showed that no one party or bloc would have a majority of votes enabling it to govern alone, likely ushering in a protracted period of political instability and tension in the euro zone’s third-largest economy.
The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement came out as a clear winner, looking set to become the largest single party by a wide margin, underscoring the continued power of populist parties in European politics.
The center-right bloc, made up of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, and the far-right League and Brothers of Italy, is set to win most seats but is seen falling some way short of an absolute majority. But in a bitter personal defeat for the billionaire media magnate, his Forza Italia party was overtaken by its ally, the far-right, anti-immigrant League.
The euro was up 0.1% at $1.2331, erasing all of its losses after sliding to a session low of $1.2155. Against the yen, it was unchanged at 130.25, recovering after hitting an intraday low of 129.36, its lowest level since late August.
2. Trump’s Tariffs To Dominate Final Day Of NAFTA Talks
Ministers from the United States, Canada and Mexico meet in Mexico City on Monday to wrap up the latest round of NAFTA talks under the shadow of U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Trump is expected to finalize the tariffs – 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum – later in the week, posing a tough challenge for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.
The Mexican and Canadian ministers are likely to press Trump’s trade envoy on whether their countries will be excluded from the blanket tariffs.
The NAFTA talks are going slowly and the Mexico City round – the seventh of eight planned sets of negotiations – has so far produced little substance.
3. Global Stocks Mixed Amid Italy Uncertainty, Trade War Talk
Global equities were mixed in cautious trade, as investor nerves remained on show amid continued fretting about the potential for a full-fledged trade war and as Italy headed toward a hung parliament.
In Europe, nearly all the continent’s major bourses traded in positive territory, after spending most of the morning lower. The pan-European Stoxx 600 index, the region’s broadest measure of share prices, rose around 0.6%, with most sectors in the green.
Meanwhile, on Wall Street, U.S. stock futures pointed to a flat open, with the three benchmark indices managing to recoup a major chunk of their overnight losses.
Dow futures were down 30 points, or around 0.1%, paring back a more-than-180-point drop seen on Sunday night. S&P 500 futures dipped 3 points, or about 0.1%, while Nasdaq 100 futures rose 6 points, or roughly 0.1%.
U.S. stocks logged hefty losses last week, with the Dow dropping around 3%.
4. OPEC, U.S. Shale Firms To Meet For Dinner
Oil ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other global oil players are set to gather in Houston as CERAWeek, the largest energy industry conference, begins on Monday.
OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo and other OPEC officials are expected to hold a dinner Monday night with U.S. shale firms on the sidelines of the conference.
Rising U.S. shale oil production has been a drag on the OPEC’s commitment to erode a prolonged global oil glut and prop up prices.
5. China Kicks Off Its National People’s Congress Meeting
China’s National People’s Congress officially kicked off with over 3,000 lawmakers descending on Beijing, where the country’s rubber-stamp parliament is expected to eliminate the two-term limit for the presidency.
Continuing a campaign to reduce risks in China’s financial system, Premier Li Keqiang also set a target for economic growth for 2018 at “about 6.5%,” a slight recalibration from last year’s objective of “around 6.5% or higher if possible.”
Li also said China has cut its budget deficit target for the first time since 2012, suggesting Beijing will be more watchful of fiscal spending while not tapping the brakes so hard that it risks a sharper slowdown.
The two-week long political meeting is used by leaders to set policies for the year and detail plans to curb financial risk, air pollution, and excess industrial capacity.