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Global stocks ease as China worries resurface


Traders on the floor of New York Stock Exchange

Traders on the floor of New York Stock Exchange

World stock markets fell on Tuesday after weak data from China reignited worries about a global economic slowdown and oil prices pulled back from recent strong gains.

China’s February trade performance was worse than economists expected, with exports tumbling the most in over six years, days after top leaders sought to reassure investors the outlook for world’s second-largest economy remains solid.

“The data this morning has dampened sentiment more so than anything else at this point in terms of confirming some of the concerns regarding growth in China,” said Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago.

Weighing on oil, Kuwait saying it would agree to an output freeze only if all major producers took part.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were at $39.77 a barrel, down $1.07, or 2.6 percent, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures CLc1 were down $1.32, or 3.5 percent, at $36.58.

The declines come a day after Brent and U.S. oil settled at their highest levels since December.

In the stock market, energy and materials shares led the way lower. The S&P energy index .SPNY was down 3.2 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 27.54 points, or 0.16 percent, to 17,046.41, the S&P 500 .SPX had lost 11.4 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 1,990.36 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC had dropped 26.66 points, or 0.57 percent, to 4,681.60.

U.S. stocks had sold off sharply at the start of the year amid worries about weakness in China and its impact on the global economy, but major indexes retraced much of those losses in recent weeks.

MSCI’s all-country world stock index .MIWD00000PUS was down 0.6 percent, while in Europe, the pan-regional FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 ended down 0.9 percent.

The weak Chinese trade data stoked safe-haven demand for the yen and the Swiss franc as investors shed holdings of stocks and other risky investments on renewed concerns about a slowing global economy.

The dollar was down 0.6 percent at 112.68 yen JPY=, while the Swiss franc was up 0.2 percent against the greenback at 0.9928 franc CHF=.

U.S. Treasury yields fell in line with Japanese yields after the weak Chinese data, which increased demand for safe-haven U.S. government debt.

The benchmark 10-year note US10YT=RR was last up 26/32 in price to yield 1.811 percent, down from 1.904 percent late on Monday.

Investors are also awaiting Thursday’s European Central Bank announcement. The bank is expected to announce more monetary stimulus measures to boost ultra-low inflation and sluggish growth in the euro zone.

A small 10-basis point cut to push its deposit rate deeper into negative territory is a foregone conclusion, while some type of adjustment of the bank’s 1.5 trillion euro asset purchase program is also near certain.

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