BEIJING – Global stock markets were subdued Friday amid renewed jitters over North Korea and conflicting signals from President Donald Trump about U.S. trade policy. In Europe, economic indicators showed a slowdown in Britain but a rise in eurozone inflation to healthier levels.
KEEPING SCORE: London’s FTSE 100 index declined 0.4 percent to 7,207 while France’s CAC 40 gained 0.2 percent to 5,281 and Germany’s DAX was flat at 12,442. On Wall Street, futures for the Dow Jones industrial average were up 0.1 percent and those for the Standard & Poor’s 500 were unchanged.
NORTH KOREA: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the Fox News Channel that China has threatened to impose sanctions on North Korea if it conducts further nuclear tests. The Trump administration is trying to pressure North Korea with assistance from China, its main trading partner and aid donor, to change course from developing nuclear weapons.
TRUMP AND TRADE: The Trump administration rattled companies and investors this week by leaking a possible plan to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Hours later, Trump backtracked and said he would try to overhaul the deal and would only pull out if he couldn’t secure favorable terms. Earlier this month, Trump reversed course on China and dropped a campaign promise to declare Beijing a currency manipulator. Nor has he followed up on vows to punish American companies that move jobs overseas or on threats to tax Chinese and Mexican imports.
TRUMP AND TAXES: Trump’s proposal to cut corporate and capital gains taxes could draw money out of Asian stock markets and financial industries. A proposal to encourage U.S. companies to bring home profits could cause capital to “flee away from emerging markets,” said Margaret Yang of CMC Markets in a report. She said the attractiveness of Singapore and Hong Kong as wealth management centers would be “significantly diminished” by a U.S. capital gains tax cut, which would encourage Americans to move money home.
ECONOMIC DATA: Official figures showed the British economy slowed markedly in the first quarter as the weaker pound made life more expensive, hurting spending. That contrasts with consistently upbeat data from the eurozone, where inflation has now hit the official target, a sign of health for an economy.
CURRENCY: The eurozone inflation data pushed the euro up sharply as it raised speculation that the central bank may not keep its stimulus program in place as long as expected. It was up to $1.0924 from 1.0873 the day before. The dollar gained to 111.44 yen from Thursday’s 111.26 yen.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 52 cents to $49.49 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 65 cents on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 40 cents to $51.84 in London. It lost 59 cents the previous session.