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Stocks weak, bonds up after ECB, U.S.-China trade talk



NEW YORK (Reuters) – A global stock index clung to gains on Thursday and U.S. Treasuries were in demand after the European Central Bank chief said economic growth was likely to be weaker than previously expected and the United States was cautious on prospects for a trade deal with China.

FILE PHOTO – A journalist takes a picture of the new 50 Euro banknote with a mobile phone during the presentation of the new bill at the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Demand increased for safe-haven assets with U.S. Treasury 10-year yields hitting a one-week low, on anxiety about slowing global growth and trade after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC that Washington was “miles and miles” from resolving trade issues with China.

The dollar rose to its highest against the euro in over five weeks after ECB President Mario Draghi left the bloc’s interest rates unchanged on Thursday, saying near-term data is likely to be weaker than previously anticipated due to the fallout from factors ranging from China’s slowdown to Brexit.

On top of the U.S.-China trade war and its impact on the global economy investors were also worried about the economic impact of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.

Thursday’s data showed the number of applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell to more than a 49-year low last week though claims for several states including California were estimated.

While the data was encouraging, Tony Roth, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust in Delaware said it was only a matter of time before a continued shutdown would do “irreparable damage” to the economy. The shutdown as well as the trade war with China are adding pressure on U.S. and global economies he said.

“Every day that goes by that we don’t have positive news on those fronts, the starting base line (for the market) is negative,” he said. “It’s a major tactical blunder that the (Trump) administration is trying to do both at the same time.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4.73 points, or 0.02 percent, to 24,580.35, the S&P 500 gained 3.69 points, or 0.14 percent, to 2,642.39 and the Nasdaq Composite added 38.09 points, or 0.54 percent, to 7,063.86.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.22 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.18 percent.

The euro was 0.5 percent lower against the dollar at $1.1323. More broadly, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against the euro, yen, sterling and three other currencies, was up 0.38 percent at 96.488. “Draghi’s tone definitely shifted to a much more dovish fashion,” said Charles Tomes, associate portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management, adding that it “opens the door for a little bit more downside risk in the euro with economic data continuing to be more on the weak side.”

U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury notes last rose 13/32 in price to yield 2.7085 percent, compared with 2.755 percent late on Wednesday.

Overnight in Asia, the mood was also cautious. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.3 percent, helped by modest gains in China. Japan’s Nikkei eased 0.1 percent.

Oil prices were steady on Thursday, weighed by U.S. government data that showed an unexpected build in domestic crude stockpiles, but supported by a U.S. threat of sanctions on OPEC member Venezuela.

Brent crude futures fell 18 cents to $60.96 a barrel by 11:23 a.m. EST (1623 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 24 cents to $52.86 a barrel.

Additional reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed and Stephanie Kelly in New York, Marc Jones and Abhinav Ramnarayan in London; editing by Andrew Heavens and G Crosse