Concern about global trade and U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies kept appetite for risky assets in check on Friday, setting world stocks on the path to a sluggish end to what will still be their fifth straight month of gains.
In an interview with Reuters, Trump called the five-year-old trade pact with South Korea “unacceptable” and said it would be targeted for renegotiation after his administration completes a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.
Trump’s comments stunned South Korean financial markets, sending Seoul stocks and the won into reverse.
Saturday marks Trump’s 100th day in office and his attacks on free trade and scepticism about his administration’s ability to see through tax and spending campaign promises has dented some of the enthusiasm in markets that followed his election win.
“Trump is reaching the 100 day mark with nothing to show for it and these recent comments just coincide with that. They (the U.S. administration) are finding it hard to push through fiscal plans and all this rhetoric is probably related,” Kiran Kowshik, strategist at Unicredit.
The mood on Europe, however, remained relatively upbeat.
Euro zone bond yields rose across the board and the euro strengthened on Friday as economic output data from several countries reaffirmed a picture of economic strength in the bloc.
The single currency also strengthened, rising 0.1 percent against the dollar to $1.0885. while euro zone bond yields rose 1-2 basis points across the board.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch noted that the $21 billion of inflows into European equity funds over the past week were the highest since December 2015.
“The hard data for equities is earnings — and they are powering ahead. Q1 earnings season is very strong and revisions trends are positive and broad based,” said analysts at the U.S. broker.
Banking results dominated early trading with Barclays shares sliding 5 percent after weak investment banking results at the UK bank while UBS jumped 2.6 percent after it handily beat analyst expectations.
In commodities, oil prices rose but were still on track for a second straight weekly loss on concerns that an OPEC-led production cut has failed to significantly tighten an oversupplied market.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was at $49.43 per barrel at 0649 GMT, up 46 cents, or 0.94 percent, from their last close. However, WTI is still set for a small weekly loss and is around 8 percent below its April peak.
Brent crude LCOc1 was at $51.91 per barrel, up 47 cents, or 0.91 percent. Brent is almost around 8.5 percent down from its April peak and is also on track for a second, albeit small, week of declines.
(Additional reporting by Sujata Rao Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)