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Stocks dip as trade fears offset earnings; sterling slumps, dollar gains

NEW YORK (Reuters) – World stock markets broadly edged lower on Monday as concerns of a further escalation of a trade fight between the United States and China offset corporate results, while the U.S. dollar gained and Treasury yields dipped on the uncertainty.

FILE PHOTO: A trader works at Frankfurt’s stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

Sterling GBP= dropped to an 11-month low after the British trade minister warned that the nation was headed for a no-deal Brexit, stoking investor fears that Britain could soon leave the European Union without securing a trade agreement.

U.S. Treasury yields dipped, with the 10-year yield holding below 3 percent on moderate buying, on trade concerns and in advance of this week’s August refunding, where the government will sell $78 billion in coupon-bearing securities.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 4.64 points, or 0.02 percent, to 25,457.94, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 5.06 points, or 0.18 percent, to 2,845.41 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 19.98 points, or 0.26 percent, to 7,831.99.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 0.04 percent, while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 lost 0.20 percent.

The prolonged trade dispute between Washington and China has rattled financial markets across the globe.

“For months now, investors have been guessing about what’s going to happen and there is no precedent to go by,” said Craig Callahan, president at ICON Funds in Denver. “It’s unsettling for the markets.”

Chinese state media attacked President Donald Trump’s trade policies on Monday, calling the U.S. plan ineffective “extortion,” in a bid to reassure investors as growth concerns battered China’s financial markets.

The media campaign comes days after China proposed tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports in retaliation to the Trump administration’s plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports.

Chinese stocks .SSEC slumped nearly 1.3 percent on Monday.

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Still, U.S. equities have been able to offset some of the fallout of the trade spat with a strong earnings season to date.

Of the more than 400 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far, 78.6 percent have topped earnings estimates. That is well above the average of 72 percent for the past four quarters.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKb.N) rose 3.6 percent after the Warren Buffett-led conglomerate reported a 67 percent surge in quarterly operating profit on Saturday.

European shares followed their Asian counterparts lower – hurt by weak European bank earnings and trade fears – but a falling euro boosted exporters and helped halt the slide.

The pan-European share indexes .STOXXE were down 0.14 percent and 0.07 percent respectively.

Worries about trade were evident in currency markets.

The dollar index .DXY, which benefits as investors rush to safety, rose on Monday, building on two consecutive weeks of gains as investors bet that trade war rhetoric and a strong U.S. economy would continue to boost the greenback.

Against a broad basket of currencies, the dollar was last up 0.24 percent to 95.369 and was within striking distance of more-than-one-year peak of 95.652 reached on July 19.

The greenback was also boosted by disappointing German data and concerns about Britain’s plan to leave the euro zone.

The euro EUR=EBS fell to a five-week low of $1.1527 as German industrial orders fell more than expected in June, posting their steepest monthly drop in nearly a year and a half.

Sterling fell to $1.2920 – its lowest since September 2017 – before settling down half a percent on the day GBP=D3. It slumped 0.4 percent against the euro to 89.33 pence and was the biggest loser among major currencies against a broadly strong greenback.

Oil prices gained, helped by an unexpected decline in Saudi crude production. U.S. crude CLcv1 rose 1.75 percent to $69.69 per barrel and Brent LCOcv1 was last at $74.05, up 1.15 percent on the day.

Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkies in London, Swati Pandey in SYDNEY and Helen Reid in LONDON, Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru, and Richard Leong and Karen Brettell in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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