Shares fell in Europe after a mixed day of trading in Asia following a report that the US is preparing to slap sanctions on a dozen more Chinese officials, ratcheting up tensions with Beijing.
That news coincided with data showing China logged a record-high $75 billion trade surplus in November. Strong growth in exports is good news for the world economy but could worsen China-US tensions.
Germany’s DAX slipped 0.3 percent to 13,253.44 and the CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.6 percent to 5,573.51. In Britain, the FTSE 100 lost 0.2 percent to 6,535.75. Wall Street looked set for a tepid start, with the future for the S&P 500 down 0.4 percent. The future for the Dow industrials also lost 0.4 percent.
Chinese exports surged 21.1 percent in November over a year earlier, propelled by strong demand from American consumers. Exports to the United States rose 46 percent despite lingering tariff hikes in a trade war with Washington.
An international agency citing unnamed sources said the US departments of State and Treasury were preparing economic sanctions on a dozen more Chinese officials in response to Beijing’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. The report could not immediately be confirmed.
The latest sanctions followed a tightening of visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party members and their families announced late last week as tattered relations between Washington and Beijing fray further.
The decision to limit such people to one-month, single-entry visas drew an accusation from China’s foreign ministry that the US was escalating “political suppression” against Beijing.
Asian markets mostly fell Monday following last week’s rally as investors prepare for a big week that could see the vaccine rollout begin in earnest and US lawmakers agree with a new stimulus, while post-Brexit trade talks remain on a knife-edge.
But while the general consensus is for a strong recovery in 2021 as billions are inoculated, the surge in virus cases around the world and ongoing China-US tensions continue to keep a lid on sentiment.
Regional traders were unable to build on last week’s advances, despite all three Wall Street indexes chalking up records Friday thanks to signs of movement in US stimulus talks and hopes for the vaccine.
Optimism US lawmakers will finally agree a rescue package was given a boost Friday with data showing the world’s top economy created far fewer jobs than forecast in November as the country is battered by a frightening jump in infections that are forcing leaders to impose containment measures. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have revived efforts to hash out a deal for more aid, with both recognizing the need for help for Americans as Christmas approaches.
Senators and their teams worked all weekend on a detailed bill, which “will probably come out early this week”, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy told “Fox News Sunday”.
Pelosi has agreed to make the proposal the basis for negotiations on a final text.
Traders are also keeping tabs on the deployment of vaccines around the world, with Britain in line to start giving jabs this week, while US approval of its first drug could come as soon as Friday. Belgium, France, and Spain have said jabs will begin in January for the most vulnerable.
“The deployment of vaccines is getting closer” and this is “continuing to help share markets look through the current problems with the virus and its economic impact”, said Shane Oliver, at AMP Capital Investors.
The World Health Organization said 51 candidate vaccines are currently being tested on humans, with 13 reaching final-stage mass testing.
Stephen Innes, of Axi, said with the vaccine rally largely priced into stock prices now, gains would now likely be driven by “the pace of vaccinations versus the Covid resurgence speed, similar to how shifts in mobility drove equities through the spring and summer”.
He added that “as the market takes out new highs, investors sitting on the fence may be forced to react, not wanting to miss out on the pot of gold that lies at the other end of the vaccine reopening rainbow”.
Still, markets struggled to push ahead in Asia Saturday.
Hong Kong fell 1.8 percent and Shanghai sank 0.5 percent and Tokyo slipped 0.4 percent along with Seoul. Wellington and Singapore were barely moved but Sydney, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta rose.
The sentiment was given a jolt by reports that the US is considering fresh sanctions on several Chinese officials over their roles in the disqualification of lawmakers in Hong Kong, as Donald Trump presses ahead with his fight against Beijing before leaving office.
Sterling edged up slightly against the dollar as Britain and the European Union continue with talks on a trade deal for when Britain leaves the customs union on December 31.
EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost worked late into Sunday in Brussels, scrambling to close out a deal after eight months of fraught talks.
Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin warned the chances for a deal were only “50-50”, while sources close to the talks said discussions were slow and expectations low.
“The risk of a no-deal Brexit is so underpriced that it could always provide a significant sentiment knocker if the deal falls to pieces,” said Axi’s Innes.
Wall Street closed out last week with more record highs as traders took a discouraging jobs report as a sign that Congress will finally move to deliver more aid for the pandemic-stricken economy.
The S&P 500 rose 0.9 per cent to 3,699.12, notching its third all-time high this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.8 per cent, to 30,218.26, also a record. The Nasdaq picked up 0.7 per cent, to a record 12,464.23.
Hopes remain deeply rooted on Wall Street that one or more coronavirus vaccines will help rescue the global economy next year. China, Indonesia, Britain and the US all are gearing up to begin mass vaccinations soon.
“A US stimulus agreement will not be an instant panacea to US woes; only beating COVID-19 into retreat will do that, but it’s the thought that counts,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.
However, efforts to contain surging virus cases have stoked worries about more economic pain for companies and consumers as governments around the world bring back varying degrees of restrictions on businesses. Outbreaks also are scaring consumers away from stores, restaurants and other normal economic activity.
Democrats and Republicans have been making on-and-off progress on talks for another round of support for the US economy, including aid for laid-off workers and industries hit hard by the pandemic.
A proposed COVID-19 relief bill is expected to get backing from President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but it won’t include $1,200 in direct payments to most Americans, said Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana who is involved in the bipartisan talks.
The hope in markets is that financial support from Washington could help carry the economy through a dark winter.
US benchmark crude oil lost 57 cents to $45.69 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 62 cents to $46.26 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 51 cents to $48.74 per barrel.
The US dollar rose to 104.19 Japanese yen from 104.16 yen on Friday. The euro slipped to $1.2101 from $1.2120.