Stock markets mixed over Chinese data, new US tariffs

LONDON: Asian and European markets were mixed on Monday as investors cheered a surprise jump in Chinese factory activity, but were chilled by fresh US tariffs on Argentina and Brazil.

On oil markets, crude prices rebounded from last week’s sharp losses after Iraq said top producers might announce a cut in output this week.

Trade-related concerns were also stoked by China’s Global Times newspaper, which said Beijing wanted all US tariffs rolled back as part of a mini deal, a move observers said Washington is unlikely to agree to.

On Saturday, China said its manufacturing sector expanded in November for the first time in seven months, providing a much-needed boost to investors looking for signs of optimism in the world’s number-two economy.

Another survey Monday of smaller firms also showed a better-than-expected pick-up in factory activity.

“Investors are taking any signs of an end to the economic gloom, especially in China, as a reason to buy shares that benefit from stronger growth,” said analyst Jasper Lawler at London Capital Group.

Beijing and Washington are believed to be close to agreement on a partial trade deal, a development that has underpinned global markets for weeks.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump surprised investors Monday by announcing that owing to unfair policies by Brazil and Argentina, he would reinstate tariffs on steel and aluminium from those countries.

Stocks in New York dipped at the open on the news.

Very bitter trade pill

Some analysts had already raised concerns about an article in the Communist Party-linked Global Times, which tweeted that the government wants levies imposed on China to be removed as the US talks continue.

It also said leaders wanted tariffs lined up for Dec 15 to be taken off the table.

But OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley said: “It is hard to see the US swallowing a very bitter trade pill like that; it would, in effect, remove all of the US’s leverage in the far more difficult comprehensive trade negotiations to come.”

On oil markets, both main contracts rallied after Iraq said Sunday that Opec and other major producers would consider slashing output by 400,000 barrels a day to support prices when they meet in Vienna this week.

The gains reversed some of the huge losses suffered Friday after reports said Russia was looking to delay any further output reductions until April’s gathering