BEIJING/March 20, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — Global stocks were lower Monday after finance ministers from major economies dropped a pledge to oppose trade protectionism from a weekend statement due to resistance by the Trump administration.
KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, France’s CAC-40 lost 0.3 percent to 5,016.04 and London’s FTSE 100 shed 0.2 percent to 7,410.84. Germany’s DAX retreated 0.2 percent to 12,069.85. On Friday, the CAC-40 rose 0.3 percent while the DAX and FTSE 100 both added 0.1 percent. On Wall Street, the future for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.1 percent while that for the Dow Jones industrial average was little-changed.
ASIA’S DAY: 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. India’s Sensex declined 0.4 percent to 29,518.22. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Bangkok rose. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets fell.
TRADE: Finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of 20 major economies meeting in Germany issued a statement Saturday that said countries “are working to strengthen the contribution of trade” to their economies. Under pressure from the Trump administration, which wants trade to more clearly benefit American companies and workers, they dropped language from last year’s statement that called on them to resist “all forms” of protectionism. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to downplay the wording issue. Mnuchin said prior language was “not really relevant” and that Washington still supports free trade.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “Multilateralism is out,” Tim Condon of ING said in a report. He said that likely rules out an agreement similar to the Plaza Accord of the 1980s to respond to U.S. trade deficits by weakening the dollar. “The U.S. administration will pursue its America First agenda through bilateral negotiations with countries running large trade surpluses with the U.S.,” said Condon. “Germany is one and in his meeting with German Chancellor Merkel, President Trump complained that the U.S. had been treated ‘very, very unfairly’ by its trading partners.”
WALL STREET: U.S. stocks limped to the finish line in another winning week after the Federal Reserve gave a more measured forecast than expected for interest rate increases. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped Friday but ended the week up 0.2 percent at 2,378.25. That put the index within 1 percent of its record high. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.1 percent to 20,914.62. Three stocks rose for every two that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. central bank said it still plans a total of three increases this year. That came as a surprise for some investors, who thought four hikes was possible given the pickup in the economy and inflation.
CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 112.71 yen from Friday’s 112.59. The euro strengthened to $1.0763 from $1.0747.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude declined 32 cents to $48.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 3 cents on Friday to close at $48.78. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 11 cents to $51.65 in London. It added 2 cents the previous session to $51.76.
JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer