LONDON – Global stocks edged lower on Thursday as markets awaited trade news and the European Central Bank’s policy statement.
The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.3 percent in early trading, putting it on course for a second consecutive day of losses after snapping a four-session winning streak Wednesday. Sectors exposed to trade including basic resources and autos led losses on the pan-continental index as US and Chinese negotiators continued work on a trade deal.
Shares in insurer Aviva were down 2.8 percent after it reported results. The broader Stoxx 600’s insurance basket was down 0.6 percent as the company’s sector peers also declined.
The euro was steady and European government bond yields ticked lower ahead of the ECB’s press conference due later in the day. Investors expect little action from the central bank on interest rates but will watch to see how ECB President Mario Draghi reconciles the bank’s stated policy of balance sheet tightening with a run of dismal eurozone economic indicators in recent months.
“Europe has seen signs of stability after a pretty tough run and it’s going to be very interesting to see how Draghi walks the line,” said Katie Nixon, chief investment officer at Northern Trust Wealth Management. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a more dovish tone and, in general, bias toward more stimulus if in words rather than action.”
Downbeat trading in Europe followed a mostly negative session in Asia, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 index down 0.7 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng benchmark falling 0.9 percent.
Chinese indexes were among the few Asian benchmarks to edge higher. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that negotiators were putting the finishing touches to a US-China trade deal, although little new information has since emerged.
Stocks around the world have rallied so far in 2019, with warming relations between the world’s two largest economies a key driver, although many analysts now see much of the optimism around a deal as being already included in share prices. Strategic disagreements between the two countries may take longer to clear up, though, particularly on the matters of technology sharing and intellectual property.
Meanwhile, Chinese state-owned Huawei, which has been at the center of disputes over intellectual property, filed suit against the US over a law that bans government agencies from buying its products. Shares in sector peer ZTE were down 8.9 percent in Hong Kong.
In the US, futures put indexes on course for their fourth consecutive day of declines. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq-100 were on course to slip 0.3 percent at the open, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average set to fall 0.4 percent. Still, the Dow and the S&P both remained more than 10 percent up from their level on Jan. 1.
In addition to expected earnings reports, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group and Barnes & Noble were set to release results before the market open, traders were looking out for jobless claims ahead of Friday’s nonfarm payroll data.
The dollar and the yield on 10-year US Treasurys were largely unchanged from their late-Wednesday levels.