In London, the FTSE 100 shed 0.5% to 7,256 after the opposition Labour Party widened its electoral campaign promise to re-nationalize big industries with a plan to take over parts of broadband provider BT to offer free internet. Shares in BT, a former state phone monopoly, were down over 2%.
The main driver was news about the U.S.-China trade dispute. Markets have swung from euphoria to alarm as officials offered conflicting opinions about the state of the negotiations over ending the tariff war between the two largest economies.
On Thursday, Assistant to the President for Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro said in comments to Fox TV that the two sides were “on a glide path” toward an agreement. “We’re going to get a great deal,” he said when asked about Chinese officials’ expectation that the U.S. roll back some of the billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump to get China to change its trade and technology policies. China has reciprocated with punitive tariffs of its own. Both sides are feeling the pinch and more tariff hikes could be imposed in December if the talks fail.
Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow also said the two sides were close to a deal. In Asian trading, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.7% to 23,303.23 and the Kospi in South Korea added 1.1% to 2,162.18. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed flat at 26,326.66, while the Shanghai Composite index lost 0.6% to 2,891.34.
Australia’s S&P ASX 200 advanced 0.9% to 6,793.70, while the Sensex in India jumped 0.6% to 40,555.95. Investors hope that Washington and Beijing will reach an agreement to avert the new and potentially more damaging tariffs that are scheduled to take effect in the middle of next month. They would hit some popular consumer products, such as electronic devices. Trump dismissed making any changes to tariffs while negotiations continue.
“Trump wants good news to help the economy hold up ahead of the Presidential election and to offset the impeachment. Going through with the scheduled December 15 tariff hike on a range of consumer goods would be shooting himself in the foot,” Shane Oliver of AMP Capital said in a commentary.
“Given the ongoing slowing in the Chinese economy and its need for some U.S. agricultural products it makes sense for it to cut a deal now,” he said. In other trading, benchmark crude oil lost 5 cents to $56.72 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude oil, the international standard, lost 24 cents to $62.04 a barrel.
The dollar rose to 108.70 Japanese yen from 108.42 yen on Thursday. The euro gained to $1.1033 from $1.1022.