Markets slip as US-China trade negotiations end

Friday, 11 Jan, 2019

The meetings in China were the first face-to-face talks since Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Buenos Aires in December and agreed a 90-day truce in a trade war that has disrupted the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods.

Trade tensions between the world's two largest economies escalated a year ago, putting global stock markets on edge.

"We are moving towards a more balanced and reciprocal trade agreement with China", she said, adding that no one knows yet what that agreement will look like or when it will be ready. The just-concluded talks in Beijing helped the USA market rally for four days in a row, its longest streak since mid-September. As producers say they won't let oil stockpiles exceed normal levels, fears of a slowdown in demand is abating as trade tensions ease between the world's top-two economies.

While the hosts indicated the talks would run Monday and Tuesday, the editor-in-chief of the Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper said in a tweet the discussions could continue Wednesday. But aside from some soybean purchases, there has been little sign of big-ticket acquisitions.

US President Donald Trump is increasingly eager to strike a deal with China soon in an effort to perk up financial markets that have slumped on concerns over the trade war, according to people familiar with internal White House deliberations. Such an agreement, indeed, was previously reached in May 2018, when U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the trade war had been put "on hold" thanks to China's pledge to "significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services".

A separate geopolitical issue angered China on Monday when a US Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed near disputed islands in the South China Sea - a vast expanse claimed by Beijing. Growing investor optimism helped overshadow a government report showing a steep inventory jump for USA gasoline and diesel, a bearish signal for future crude demand.

If no deal is reached by March 2, Trump has said he will proceed with raising tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Trade Representative's offices said in a statement officials from the two sides discussed "ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity and balance in trade relations".

The paper said in an editorial that the dispute harms both countries and disrupts the worldwide trade order and supply chains. The next round of talks is likely to take place in Washington between Lighthizer, who was appointed by Trump to lead the negotiations, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, President Xi's chief economic adviser. The U.S. said it wants any deal to include "ongoing verification and effective enforcement".

Chinese exports were resilient for much of 2018 as shippers rushed out goods to beat imposition of higher USA tariffs.

"I confirm we're continuing tomorrow, yes", Winberg said, declining to answer further questions.

Adding to support for oil, the value of the US dollar tumbled after a Federal Reserve official said the central bank isn't locked into a particular direction for interest rates.

Asked what he expected to come out of this week's talks in Beijing, Trump sounded a positive note.

In another sign of subsiding worries about the USA economic outlook, Fed funds rate futures show traders are now pricing in a small chance of a rate hike in 2019, a change from late last week when futures markets had priced in a cut by the end of the year.

A week ago, Apple Inc rattled global markets by cutting its own sales outlook, blaming weak demand in China.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson rejected suggestions that Kim's visit was intended as a bargaining chip during the trade talks.

Most Asian markets opened lower after the talks wrapped up the day before without clear indications of whether progress was made on resolving a dispute over Chinese technology policies that has the world's two biggest economies embroiled in a trade dispute.