By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK (Reuters) – World stocks edged lower and debt yields fell on Thursday as Chinese economic data slowed in October and Germany narrowly avoided a recession in the third quarter, adding to concerns about the U.S.-China trade war’s impact on global growth.
MSCI’S All-Country World index, which tracks the performance of equity markets in 47 countries, slid 0.11% while gold prices rose, moving further away from a three-month low hit on Tuesday.
The dollar fell against the Japanese yen and traded near break-even to slightly lower against the euro on diminished risk appetite due to the difficult nature of the U.S.-China trade talks amid ongoing political turmoil in Hong Kong.
The driver of investor sentiment is the status of a “phase one” trade agreement, which had appeared to be in the cards but not any more, said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco.
“Phase one had been considered a fait accompli, and it’s not and that’s becoming clear,” Hooper said.
China wants tariffs imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump to be removed but has not made the agricultural purchases the United States wants because swine flu has decimated its pork industry and eliminated the need for U.S. soybeans.
“It really suggests that phase one is on shaky grounds and if you can’t get a phase one, forget about anything else,” Hooper said.
Wall Street closed little changed, with the benchmark S&P 500 setting a new record closing high.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.63 points, or 0.01%, to 27,781.96, the S&P 500 gained 2.59 points, or 0.08%, to 3,096.63 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.08 points, or 0.04%, to 8,479.02.
European shares fell after data showed the German economy grew just 0.1% in the third quarter. Though Germans avoided slipping into a mild contraction thanks to consumer spending, economic growth remained weak nevertheless.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed down 0.36%, while Germany’s DAX fell 0.38%, also pulled lower by a 4.5% drop in Daimler shares. The carmaker said tougher emissions rules would hit earnings in 2020 and 2021.
Ten-year bond yields across the euro area fell around 2 basis points each. Germany, French and Dutch yields reached one-week lows,.
France’s 10-year bond yield slipped back into negative territory a week after it turned positive for the first time since July. Germany’s Bund yield fell to a low of -0.353%, down from last week’s three-and-a-half-month low around -0.22%.
In Asia, stocks fell after soft economic data in China and Japan showed the trade war between Beijing and Washington was hitting growth in some of the world’s biggest economies.
China’s factory output growth slowed significantly more than expected in October, as weakness in global and domestic demand and the drawn-out Sino-U.S. trade war weighed on broad segments of the world’s second-largest economy.
Chinese industrial production growth slowed sharply in October, with the 4.7% year-on-year rise well below forecasts for 5.4%. Investment growth hit a record low and retail sales also missed expectations.
Worries about spiraling violence as anti-government protests intensify in Hong Kong have also soured investor sentiment.
Protesters paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for a fourth day, forcing school closures and blocking highways and other transport links in a marked escalation of unrest in the financial hub.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.8% to a fresh one-month low.
In currency markets, safe havens such as the Japanese yen and Swiss franc gained.
The dollar index fell 0.2%, with the euro up 0.13% to $1.102. The yen strengthened 0.36% versus the greenback at 108.45 per dollar.
The Swiss franc traded at 0.9880 versus the greenback, also near its highest in more than a week.
The uncertainty over the U.S.-China trade deal also pushed gold higher by denting demand for riskier assets.
U.S. gold futures settled up 0.7% at $1,473.40 per ounce.
Oil slid as a build in U.S. crude inventories weighed on prices, while comments from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries about lower-than-expected U.S. shale production in 2020 limited declines.
Brent crude futures settled down 9 cents to $63.40 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 35 cents to settle at $56.77 per barrel.
The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell 14/32 in price to push yields down to 1.8204%.
(Reporting by Herb Lash and Ritvik Carvalho; Additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Diane Craft)