Gold climbed to a seven-month high on Tuesday as markets opted for caution before three major macro events and a blizzard of big tech company earnings in the coming days, starting with Apple later.
Despite the upcoming action – a key Brexit vote in the UK , Wednesday’s U.S. Federal Reserve decision and Thursday’s conclusion of the latest Sino-U.S. trade talks – European and Asian stocks held up relatively well.
London’s FTSE rose 1 percent and Frankfurt and Paris both made some ground. Utilities and other safety plays benefited from a series of U.S. profit alerts, including from digger maker Caterpillar, overnight.
News that the U.S had leveled charges against China’s telecom giant Huawei days before the next round of trade talks between Washington and Beijing knocked sentiment.
But it was offset by promises of more economic stimulus from China, which had berated Washington on Monday for blocking the appointment of judges for its World Trade Organisation appeal against U.S. tariffs.
Amid the turmoil, gold broke through $1,300 an ounce to reach its highest since mid June.
“Investors are very cautious with many uncertainties on U.S.-China trade talks and Brexit. Huawei is at the center of dispute, creating very noisy background for the trade talks,” said Margaret Yang, a market analyst at CMC Markets.
“All these are making it more difficult for investors to judge the market’s direction. Money is fleeing into assets such as gold, seeking safety.” ,”
The U.S.-Sino moves, as well as bets that the U.S. Fed will sound more cautious on Wednesday, kept the dollar near a two-week low and heightened the safe-haven appeal of the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc.
Sterling held at $1.3166 and 86.88 pence to the euro before crucial votes later in the day aimed at breaking a deadlock in the UK parliament over Brexit .
The pound has rallied 6 percent from Jan. 4 lows, but further gains may be limited unless lawmakers emerge with a big majority on the votes.
Most European government bond yields were little changed. Weaker economic data and unknowns like the trade feuds and Brexit have all boosted expectations that interest rates will stay low.
New debt deals from Greece, Belgium and Austria were also in the pipeline. The slide in rates has also encouraged governments to launch new bond deals. Even Angola, which has just taken IMF aid, said it was eyeing a bond sale.
In Asia, shares were mixed, with losses for Australia and New Zealand, with their benchmark indices down 0.5 percent and 1.2 percent respectively. Japanese and Chinese stocks both recovered from early wobbles to finish in the green.
Markets will have more catalysts this week with over 100 of the S&P500 companies reporting results, including Amazon, Apple and Facebook.
Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow and S&P 500 each closed down 0.8 percent and the Nasdaq was off more than 1 percent.
The losses came after Caterpillar and Nvidia Corp joined a growing list of companies cautioning about the crippling effects of softening Chinese demand.
World markets slip on China worries; dollar steady ahead of trade talks
“Both companies are seen as industry bellwethers, and their disappointing results provide further evidence that this time China’s slowdown is for real,” said Rodrigo Catril, Sydney-based strategist at National Australia Bank.
Worryingly, earnings at China’s industrial firms too shrank in December, pointing to more troubles for the country’s vast manufacturing sector, which are already struggling with a decline in orders, job layoffs and factory closures.
Oil recovered after overnight losses. U.S. crude was last up 35 cents at $52.34 a barrel; Brent gained 37 cents to $60.30.
Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA on Monday, a step that is likely to curb its crude exports to the U.S. and ratchet up the pressure on President Nicolas Maduro. -Reuters