- Asian shares stumble as global growth pessimism drives investors away
- IMF cuts 2019 & 2020 world forecasts
- Gold prices drop despite demand for safe haven assets
- Alphabet fined 50 million Euros for GDPR breach
Asian shares stumbled and Oil prices fell on Tuesday as pessimism about world growth drove investors away from risky assets, while Sterling ticked lower in the face of the latest twists and turns in the Brexit saga.
China got the week off to a shaky start on Monday after Beijing reported 2018 growth in the world's second-largest economy slowed to its weakest pace in nearly 30 years. Adding to the air of caution, the International Monetary Fund trimmed its global growth forecasts and a survey showed increasing pessimism among business chiefs as trade tensions loomed. The gloomy news highlighted the challenges facing policymakers globally as they tackle an array of current or potential crises, from the US-China trade war to Brexit.
The US Dollar was trading near two-week highs against a basket of its rivals on Tuesday as concerns over the outlook for the global economy underpinned investor demand for safe haven assets. The US Dollar index, which measures the Greenback’s strength against a basket of six major currencies, was up 0.14% to 96.12, the most since Jan. 4 by 02:50 AM ET (07:50 AM GMT).
A surprising rally for China's Yuan over the turn of the year has been cut short by widespread expectations that Beijing will ramp up policy easing in coming months to avert a sharper economic slowdown. The Yuan has retreated to the weaker side of 6.8 per dollar this week, but is still up nearly 3% since early December on hopes that Washington and Beijing may be inching toward a trade deal.
Gains in a currency that was one of Asia's weakest in 2018 were also fueled by expectations that Beijing does not want to see the currency drop too much, in case it becomes a sticking point in negotiations with the Trump administration. But analysts say mere optimism over trade talks cannot take it any higher, unless it's driven by a dramatic decline in the Dollar. Caution over trade and the extent of further Chinese easing are likely to cap the Yuan's gains. Trade negotiators are facing an early March deadline and Washington has threatened to sharply hike tariffs on Chinese goods if there are no substantial signs of compromise from Beijing.
The International Monetary Fund cut its 2019 and 2020 global growth forecasts on Monday, citing a bigger-than-expected slowdown in China and the Eurozone and said failure to resolve trade tensions could further destabilize a slowing global economy.
Oil prices fell on Tuesday on signs that an economic slowdown in China, the world's second-largest economy and oil consumer, was spreading, stoking concerns over future fuel demand. The gloomy economic news has pulled down financial markets across Asia, including Crude Oil futures. International Brent Oil futures were at $62.26 per barrel at 07:36 GMT, down 48 cents, or 0.8%, from their previous close. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) Crude futures were at $53.43 per barrel, down 0.7%, or 37 cents. China's state planner on Tuesday warned that the downward pressure on the economy will affect China's job market as falling factory orders point to a further drop in activity in coming months and more job shedding.
Weakening global economic data were cited as a headwind for Oil prices. On Monday, China reported that its 2018 economic growth dropped to its slowest pace in nearly three decades, although analysts later pointed to the fact that the slowdown was in line with expectations and simply reflected a normal part of the economic cycle. "Slowing manufacturing activity in China is likely weighing on demand," said Singapore-based tanker brokerage Eastport in a Reuters report. Just hours after the release of the GDP data, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced it is cutting its 2019 and 2020 global growth forecasts.
The safe-haven Gold fell on Tuesday in Asia even after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) trimmed global growth forecasts. Comex gold futures were down 0.3% to $1,278.65 a troy ounce by 1:10 AM ET (6:10 GMT). The precious metal fell to a low of $1,276.80 earlier on Monday, their lowest level of the year so far.
Canada's two major railways are rationing space on trains traveling to the country's biggest port and recently prioritized some commodities over others to deal with congestion, the latest indication of their struggle to meet demand from new trade deals. That move prompted Canada's transport regulator last week to start an investigation into rail services around Port Metro Vancouver, after shippers complained of "discriminatory treatment of certain commodities" by Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway. Canada is a top shipper of crops, fertilizer, oil and pulp, but has in recent years needed government intervention to keep commodities moving, from ordering railways to clear grain backlogs to Alberta's crude oil curtailments this month due to full pipelines. Free-trade deals with the European Union and Pacific Nations are boosting demand for commodities, adding further strain to Canada's transportation infrastructure. Currently, the United States and Mexico account for at least 75% of Canadian exports.
Tesla Inc denied on Tuesday that it had signed a preliminary agreement with Tianjin Lishen to supply batteries for its new Shanghai car factory, saying it had received quotes from the Chinese battery maker but did not proceed further. "We have not signed any agreement of any kind with them," a Tesla spokeswoman told Reuters. Reuters earlier on Tuesday reported, citing two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, that Tesla and Lishen had signed a preliminary agreement and were working on the details.
Weakness in the service and farm sectors slowed China's economic growth in the fourth quarter, despite a strong pickup in construction activity, official data showed on Tuesday. Services grew 7.4% from a year earlier, slowing from 7.9% in the third quarter, while growth in agriculture slowed to 3.5% from 3.6%, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said. The sector-by-sector breakdown follows release of headline GDP figures on Monday that showed China's economy in the last quarter expanded at its slowest rate since the global financial crisis due to faltering domestic demand and an ongoing trade war with the United States. The services sector accounted for almost half of gross domestic product in the quarter by value as China continued to transition toward a service-oriented economy, while agriculture contributed about 10%, according to Reuters' calculations based on the latest data.
British households' hopes for their finances over the year ahead remain near a five-year low, due to growing concern about job security ahead of Brexit, though easing inflation pressures have offered some short-term cheer. IHS Markit said its monthly Household Finances Index picked up to a three-month high in January, on the back of households' perception that their living costs were rising at the slowest rate since October 2016. The official measure of consumer price inflation dropped to its lowest in nearly two years in December at 2.1%. But households' expectations for their finances over the year to come, when Britain is due to leave the European Union, remained close to their lowest level since early 2014. "Political deadlock over Brexit merely adds extra uncertainty to an already unfavorable financial environment for UK households," IHS Markit economist Joe Hayes said.
Amazon.com In is launching its long-awaited in-house fulfillment and delivery network in Brazil after months of delays caused by complicated logistics and a highly complex tax system in the largest Latin American economy. Amazon, which some rivals had expected to kick off direct sales of items beyond books as soon as the Christmas selling season, said it will directly sell 11 categories of merchandise from over 800 suppliers from L'Oreal to Black & Decker as of Tuesday. Its shift to stocking and delivering goods itself from acting mostly as a marketplace is expected to intensify competition for fast delivery of goods.
Facebook Inc's WhatsApp is limiting worldwide the number of times a user can forward a message to five, starting on Monday, as the popular messaging service looks to fight "misinformation and rumors", company executives said on Monday. Previously, a WhatsApp user could forward a message to 20 individuals or groups. The limit of five is in expansion of a measure WhatsApp put in place in India in July after the spread of rumors on social media led to killings and lynching attempts. "We're imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today," Victoria Grand, vice president for policy and communications at WhatsApp, said at an event in the Indonesian capital.
France's data protection watchdog fined Alphabet's Google 50 million Euros ($57 million) on Monday for breaching European Union online privacy rules, the biggest such penalty levied against a US tech giant. The French regulator said the world's biggest search engine lacked transparency and clarity in the way it informs users about its handling of personal data and failed to properly obtain their consent for personalized ads. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the biggest shake-up of data privacy laws in more than two decades, came into force in May. It allows users to better control their personal data and gives regulators the power to impose fines of up to 4% of global revenue for violations.