LONDON (Reuters) – Concern over China’s economic outlook and possible U.S. tariffs on European cars dragged stocks lower on Thursday, while an anti-climactic end to the latest chapter in the Brexit saga offered sterling a moment’s peace.

FILE PHOTO: New one pound coins, which come into circulation today, are seen in London, Britain March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Fresh big market-moving news was thinner on the ground for most of the European session, but dealers had more than enough to digest from the previous 24 hours to ensure most of the major bourses stayed in the red.

Disappointing earnings from Morgan Stanley, hot on the heels of similarly weak numbers from JP Morgan earlier in the week, meant its shares were marked down 5 percent and futures pointed to Wall Street’s first fall in three days.

Europe’s banks tumbled 1.8 percent .SX7E after France’s Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) issued a profit warning and carmakers .SXAP skidded as much as 1.5 percent after U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said he thought President Donald Trump was “inclined” to impose tariffs on European cars.

On top of that, the tech sector .SX8P took its latest hit as one of world’s biggest chip producers, Taiwan Semiconductor (2330.TW), forecast its steepest drop in revenue in a decade.

“There is some focus on the Grassley comments in relation to auto trade tariffs and also reference to there not being much progress in the U.S.-China negotiations last week,” said Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi strategist Derek Halpenny.

“There has obviously been a lot of optimism (in markets) since the start of the year and risk appetite has had a pretty good run, but this will place a few question marks over that.”

MSCI’s broadest index of world stocks .MIAPJ0000PUS was fractionally lower having hit a five-week high. Markets like Japan had dithered in both directions while futures ESc1 pointed to Wall Street starting 0.25 percent lower.

Some took heart from Beijing’s confirmation that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will travel to the United States on Jan. 30 for more negotiations with Washington, but it wasn’t enough to tip the balance more broadly.

China’s blue-chip index .CSI300 ended down 0.55 percent, led lower by a decline in the country’s second-largest home appliances maker, Gree Electric 00065.SZ, after it warned of slower profit growth as the economy loses steam.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang promised increased government investment this year and the central bank injected more cash into the financial system, bringing the amount for the week to 1.14 trillion yuan ($167 billion).

Stoking additional caution, however, was news that U.S. lawmakers introduced bills on Wednesday that would ban the sale of U.S. chips or other components to Huawei HWT.UL or other Chinese telecoms firms that violate U.S. sanctions or export control laws.

That came shortly before the Wall Street Journal reported federal prosecutors were investigating allegations that Huawei stole trade secrets from U.S. businesses.

Separately, Handelsblatt reported the German government is actively considering stricter security requirements and other ways to exclude Huawei from a buildout of fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks.

Also lurking were worries the U.S. government shutdown was starting to take a toll on the U.S. economy. White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said the shutdown would shave 0.13 percent off quarterly economic growth for each week it goes on.


The pound was up at $1.2913 GBP=, and though it was still short of Monday’s peak of $1.2929, it did manage a new seven-week high of 88.25 pence against the euro EURGBP=.

As expected, British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly won a confidence vote overnight and invited other party leaders for talks to try to break the impasse on a Brexit agreement.

An outline for Plan B is due by next Monday and markets are currently assuming that with no easy way forward for May she will have to extend the date of Britain’s exit from the European Union past the scheduled March 29.

“Nothing has happened in the last 24 hours to dissuade us from the view that we are headed in the direction of an Article 50 delay, a softer Brexit or no Brexit,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at NAB.

The U.S. dollar was mixed, easing against the yen to 108.80 JPY= but flat versus the euro at $1.1400 EUR=. The dollar index was barely moving too at 96.043 .DXY as a drop in euro zone bond yields also helped drag down those on Treasuries.

In commodity markets, palladium XPD= hit record highs thanks to increasing demand and lower supply while gold XAU= was little changed at $1,294.91 per ounce.

Oil prices eased as traders worried about the strength of demand in the United States after its gasoline stockpiles grew last week more than analysts had expected.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 fell 38 cents to $51.93 per barrel. Brent CLOc1 slipped 40 cents to $60.92.

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

(GRAPHIC: Asia stock markets – tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4)

(GRAPHIC: Asia-Pacific valuations – tmsnrt.rs/2Dr2BQA)

(GRAPHIC: The chips (makers) are down – tmsnrt.rs/2HieTMX)

Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Catherine Evans and Susan Fenton


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