Stocks mixed as investors keep eyes on US-China tensions

A man walks past a bank electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange Thursday, June 28, 2018. Asian markets were mixed on Thursday, as White House statements on trade left investors divided on whether the administration was interested in soothing tensions with China. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Global stocks mixed as investors let the latest assurances from the U.S. and China on trade simmer

SINGAPORE — Global stocks were mixed Thursday as investors digested assurances from the U.S. and China on trade, after a series of exchanges between the two resulted in widespread uncertainty.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX was down 1.2 percent to 12,206 and France's CAC 40 shed 0.6 percent to 5,293. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.2 percent to 7,603. Wall Street was poised for a subdued open. Dow futures were flat while futures for the S&P 500, which on Wednesday closed at its lowest in nearly a month, were up less than 0.1 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index remained almost flat at 22,270.39 and South Korea's Kospi lost 1.2 percent to 2,314.24. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent to 28,497.32 while the Shanghai Composite in mainland China extended its losses by 0.9 percent to 2,786.90. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 6,215.40. Taiwan's benchmark fell and Southeast Asian indexes were mixed.

CHINA DEFENDS TRADE: China's government defended its trade record on Thursday to defuse U.S. and European pressure over market access and technology policy. A Cabinet report said that China has fulfilled its responsibility as a "major country" and contributed to "global peace and development." The report repeated promises to cut some tariffs and ease controls on foreign investment. But it didn't address complaints that Beijing is hampering access to promising industries and that plans for the state-led development of electric cars and other products violates China's free trade commitments.

MIXED U.S. MESSAGES: U.S. stocks inched higher on Wednesday after President Donald Trump dropped plans to impose strict limits on Chinese investment in U.S. technology companies. He urged Congress to strengthen existing laws that apply to all foreign countries instead. But the gains evaporated after Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, said in an interview with Fox Business that it should not necessarily be viewed as a softer stance. The U.S. is set to impose a 25 percent tariff on billions of dollars of Chinese products starting July 6. In response, China will raise import duties on $34 billion worth of American goods.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Trump's slightly softer tone seems to have been undermined by a reiteration of the previous harsh tone on trade and investment by his adviser. Dollar strength, a generalized concern about global growth, higher oil prices, none of this is helping," said Robert Carnell, head of research and chief economist at ING Bank.

ENERGY: Oil futures eased after rallying on a report that showed U.S oil inventories dropping more sharply last week. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 31 cents to $72.45 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $2.23 to settle at $72.76 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 18 cents to $77.80 in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged down to 110.18 yen from 110.20 Japanese yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro ticked up to $1.1584 from $1.1557.

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