LONDON / AP
Global stock markets were trading lower on Monday after finance ministers from the world’s major economies dropped a pledge to oppose trade protectionism from a weekend statement due to resistance by the Trump administration. In Europe, France’s CAC-40 fell 0.3 percent to 5,015 while Britain’s FTSE 100 declined 0.1 percent to 7,417. Germany’s DAX declined 0.3 percent to 12,061. Wall Street was poised for modest falls at the open, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures 0.1 percent lower.
Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 major economies dropped a pledge to eschew protectionism in a statement Saturday under US pressure. In his campaign to become president and since his inauguration, Donald Trump has sounded more protectionist than his predecessors. He has promised to rewrite already-existing free-trade deals and has ditched the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed pact between 12 countries that border the Pacific Ocean which represented around 40 percent of global economic output. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to downplay the wording issue, arguing that the language used previously was “not really relevant” and that Washington still supports free trade.
“A key downside risk for the global economy is an increase in protectionism and an outbreak of trade wars,” said Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.
News that the British government is set to trigger on March 29 the two-year formal process by which the country leaves the European Union weighed on the pound. Having been solidly higher, the pound was 0.1 percent lower at $1.2381, further evidence that the currency, which has shed around 20 percent of its value since Britain’s vote last June to leave the EU, remains vulnerable to Brexit-related headlines.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained
0.8 percent to 24,501.99 and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.4 percent to 3,250.81. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday. Seoul’s Kospi shed 0.4 percent to 2,157.01 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 lost 0.4 percent to 5,778.90.