A bank employee stands near screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), left, and the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and South Korean won at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, July 19, 2018. Asian stock markets drifted without a clear direction on Thursday while investors wait and see further developments on global trade disputes. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Global stocks drift lower as investors await news on trade

July 19, 2018 - 4:48 am

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Global stock markets were drifting lower Thursday as investors awaited further moves in global trade disputes with the U.S. soon to make a key decision on auto tariffs. Its trading partners in Europe and Asia could retaliate in kind, denting one of the key drivers of global growth.

KEEPING SCORE: European markets traded mostly lower early Thursday with France's CAC 40 down 0.4 percent at 5,426.28. Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent to 12,726.68. But Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.2 percent to 7,689.51. Futures augured a lukewarm start on Wall Street with S&P futures down 0.2 percent and Dow futures down 0.1 percent.

AUTO TARIFFS: The next big event on the global trade front may be the U.S. Commerce Department's decision whether to label imported vehicles and auto parts a threat to America's national security and whether to recommend tariffs to the president. Before the decision is made, manufacturers, suppliers, car dealers and foreign diplomats will line up Thursday to testify at a Washington hearing, seeking to head off new auto tariffs.

ASIA'S DAY: Asian markets finished mostly lower with Japan's Nikkei 225 losing 0.1 percent to 22,764.68 while South Korea's Kospi shed 0.3 percent to 2,282.29. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 28,010.86 while the Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.5 percent to 2,772.55. But Australia's S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 6,262.70.

ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK OUTLOOK: The Manila, Philippines-based Asian Development Bank issued a revised economic forecast for the region and for major industrial economies that kept mostly unchanged the estimates for growth it made in April, though it warned that trade tensions pose "a clear downside risk to the outlook for developing Asia." It forecast growth for the region at 6.0 percent in 2018 and 5.9 percent for 2019.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "The tone is little changed from yesterday with earnings and the Fed relief carrying markets higher and providing positive leads for us here in Asia. That said, markets lack real conviction amid the waffling sentiment," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 70 cents to $68.06 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract rose 1 percent to finish at $68.76 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 73 cents to $72.17 per barrel in London. It added 1 percent to settle at $72.90 a barrel on Wednesday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 113.04 yen from 112.85 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1601 from $1.1638.

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