Global stocks tumble as Trump escalates trade war with threatens of more China tariffs

Markets fall around the world, with the heaviest losses in Asia

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 12:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 5:24am

Global stock markets slumped Tuesday after US President Donald Trump threatened to put tariffs on another US$200 billion in imports from China, causing the Chinese government to threaten retaliation and bringing tensions between the world’s two largest economies closer to a boil.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 287.26 points, or 1.1 per cent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong lost 2.8 per cent. Major stock indices in Asia and Europe also took sharp losses.

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Trump’s new proposal calls for a 10 per cent tariff on US$200 billion in goods, and Beijing said it would respond with “comprehensive measures”. It does not import enough goods from the US to match the scale of Trump’s proposal but could adopt other methods.

Kate Warne, investment strategist for Edward Jones, said investors were concerned, but still think the US and China will work out their differences.

“There’s concern, but there’s not overall great worry at this stage,” she said. “We are certainly taking the first steps toward a trade war, and the more tit-for-tat actions are taken the harder it is to pull back.”

On Friday, Trump ordered a 25 per cent tax on US$34 billion in Chinese imports, and Beijing matched that total. Those tariffs will not take effect until July 6, which leaves time for the countries to negotiate.

The S&P 500 index lost 11 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 2,763. The Nasdaq composite fell 21 points, or .28 per cent, to 7,725.

Germany’s DAX was down 1.6 per cent after a similar loss on Monday. The CAC 40 of France fell 1.4 per cent, and in London the FTSE 100 lost 0.6 per cent.

The losses were even heavier in Asia, where Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 retreated 1.8 per cent and Seoul’s Kospi gave up 1.5 per cent. Indices in Australia and India took smaller losses.

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Industrial and technology companies took some of the worst hits as investors worried that the dispute could grow more intense and drag down global economic growth.

Trump accused Beijing of being unwilling to resolve the dispute over complaints that it steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. China’s Commerce Ministry criticised the White House action as “blackmail” and said Beijing was ready to retaliate.

Boeing, DowDuPont and Caterpillar were the worst-performing stocks in the Dow. The 30-stock index also erased all of its gains for the year as its losing streak reached six days, its longest since March 2017.

Companies that make cars, steel and aluminium and chemicals also took heavy losses. So did shares of Chinese companies listed in the US, with the search engine Baidu declining 2.5 per cent.

Shares of railroads and package shippers dropped on fears that a US trade war with China would slow the economy and reduce the amount of imported goods for them to ship. FedEx shed more than 1.5 per cent, and CSX lost 1.9 per cent.

ZTE shares slide in wake of Senate move to block settlement deal

In an issue that’s become linked to the trade dispute, the Senate on Monday approved a defence policy bill that would block a White House plan to allow Chinese telecom giant ZTE to buy component parts from the US.

ZTE is accused of violating trade laws by selling sensitive technologies to North Korea and Iran.

In April, the US Commerce Department blocked ZTE from buying US components for seven years, a move tantamount to a death sentence for the company. Earlier this month the Trump administration announced a deal with ZTE, but Senate leaders have sought to reverse it.

ZTE stock tumbled 24.8 per cent in Hong Kong. US companies that supply ZTE also sank.

Oil prices also turned lower. Brent crude, the international standard for oil prices, fell 0.3 per cent to US$75.15 a barrel in London.