Stocks Mixed On US-China Trade Tensions, Dovish Fed Signals, Ghosn Allegations

November 19, 2018

New York (Nov 19)  Global stocks traded mixed Monday amid conflicting signals on progress in trade talks between the U.S. and China, a bullish reaction to last week's suggestion from Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida that slowing global growth could tame U.S. rate hikes even as the domestic economy continues to flourish and reports that Renault Nissa boss Carlo Ghosn faces arrest in Japan over charges of financial misconduct.

The long-running trade dispute between the U.S. and China, however, took center stage over the weekend following a two-day meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Papua New Guinea during which China's President Xi Jinping and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence exchanged jabs and pointed fingers over the rise of trade protectionism around the world.

Pence, for his part, told that conference that U.S. tariffs on $250 billion worth of China-made goods would continue into next year, a statement that appeared to contradict views expressed by President Donald Trump late last week. Xi, in response, said the world faced a choice between "co-operation and confrontation" and refused to allow China to sign-off on an APEC level communique for the first time since 1993.

The escalating rhetoric, however, failed to trip global stocks, which booked modest gains in both Asia and Europe in the wake of a weaker U.S. dollar and softer Treasury bond yields following Friday comments from Fed Vice Chair Clarida, who told CNBC television that "going forward, we have to look at a lot of trends, including the global economy, and there's some evidence that it's slowing."

"We're at a point where we need to be especially data dependent," he added "The economy is doing well and we're looking at signals from the labor market and inflation to get a sense of both the pace and destination of policy."

The remarks pushed U.S Treasury bond yields, notably lower Friday and into the weekend, with benchmark 10-year notes marked at 3.07% and the U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, falling some 0.5% after Clarida's comments to trade at 96.34 in early European dealing.

The moves helped stocks in Asia to modest gains by the close of trading, with the Nikkei 225 in Japan rising 0.65% to 21,821.16 points and the MSCI Asia-ex Japan index adding 0.21% thanks to solid gains for benchmarks in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Early indications from U.S. equity futures were similarly positive, with contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average  suggesting a 33-point pullback at the opening bell while those linked to the S&P 500  indicating a 3 point dip for the broader benchmark.

Apple Inc (AAPL) shares extended declines Monday following a report from the Wall Street Journal that suggested yet more iPhone production cuts as waning demand and an increase in available models disrupts the tech giant's global supply chain.

Apple shares were marked 1.8% lower in pre-market trading Monday, indicating an opening bell price of $190.00 each, a move that would extend the decline from its October 3 peak to around 18.5% and value the Cuptertino-Calf.-based group at just over $905 million.

European stocks had a positive tone, as well, with the Stoxx 600 benchmark rising 0.14% in the opening minutes of trading in Frankfurt while Britain's FTSE 100 booked an early 0.1% gain as the pound drifted to 1.2805 against the dollar amid speculation that Conservative party lawmakers are getting close to the threshold of 48 letters that would trigger an official confidence vote over the Premiership of Theresa May.

European stocks were weakened, however, as Renault SA (RNLSY) shares plunged to the lowest level in four years wiping more than $2 billion from the company's market value, after Nissan Motor Co. said chairman Carlos Ghosn misused company funds following an investigation in cooperation with Japan's Public Prosecutors Office.

The Nissan statement followed a a report from Japan's Asahi newspaper, and other media outlets, that the Renault CEO faces arrest for allegedly violating the country's financial instruments and exchange linked to his role as chairman of Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) .

Nissan said in a statement that a months-long investigation found that Ghosn and Representative Director Greg Kelly understated their compensation in annual securities reports, while Ghosn also used company money for his personal benefit. Executives at Renault in Paris were not immediately available for comment when contacted by TheStreet.

"Because the significant acts of misconduct that were uncovered through our internal investigation constitute clear violations of their duty of care as directors, the Chief Executive Officer will propose to the Board of Directors to quickly remove Carlos Ghosn from his positions as Chairman and Representative Director," Nissan said in a statement. "Our company has been providing information to the Public Prosecutors Office, and have been fully cooperating with their investigation."

Renault shares tumbled 12.4% lower in Paris trading following the report and changing hands at €56.51 each, the lowest since October 2014, while Nissan's German-listed units tumbled 12.2% on the Deutsche Boerse.

Global oil markets were also on the rise, despite further evidence of surging U.S. production, as Saudi Arabia reportedly continues to press OPEC members for deeper output cuts and the White House prepares an official report on the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi for release on Tuesday.


Brent crude contracts for January delivery, the global benchmark, were seen 39 cents higher from their Friday close in New York and changing hands at $67.15 per barrel while WTI contracts for December, which are more tightly liked to U.S gas prices, were marked 57 higher at $57.25 per barrel but still some 25% from the October 4 peak of $76.41.


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