US-China trade truce sends US stocks solidly higher

A newspaper featuring a front page story about the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping as seen at a news stand in Beijing on December 3, 2018. (AFP / GREG BAKER)
Updated 04 December 2018
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US-China trade truce sends US stocks solidly higher

  • Technology stocks, automakers, retailers and industrial companies accounted for much of the market’s gains Monday, offsetting losses in household goods makers
  • Presidents Trump and Xi of China met at the G-20 summit over the weekend and agreed to a cease-fire, lasting for at least 90 days

WASHINGTON: A welcome truce in the escalating US-China trade dispute put investors in a buying mood Monday, sending US stocks solidly higher and extending the market’s gains from last week.
The broad rally, which lost some of its early morning momentum, followed gains in overseas markets as investors welcomed news of the temporary, 90-day stand-down, which was agreed to over dinner between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit over the weekend.
The long-running dispute between the world’s two largest economies has rattled investors for months, stoking traders’ fears that it could begin dragging down corporate profits and weighing on global economic growth.
“We’re going to have to see what happens over these 90 days,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments. “In the meantime, you’re not getting an increase in the tariffs, so that’s an interim positive.”
The encouraging development on trade helped extend a swift turnaround for the market, which notched its biggest weekly gain in nearly seven years last week after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated the central bank might consider a pause in rate hikes next year while it gauges the impact of its credit tightening program.
Technology stocks, automakers, retailers and industrial companies accounted for much of the market’s gains Monday, offsetting losses in household goods makers. Energy stocks also climbed as US crude oil prices rose sharply.
US traders observed a moment of silence before markets opened Monday in honor of former President George H.W. Bush, who died Friday at 94. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq said they will close trading Wednesday in observance of a national day of mourning for Bush. The federal government will also be closed.
The S&P 500 index climbed 30.20 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,790.37. The benchmark index vaulted 4.9 percent last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 287.97 points, or 1.1 percent, to 25,826.43. The average was up as much as 441 points earlier.
The Nasdaq composite rose 110.98 points, or 1.5 percent, to 7,441.51. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 15.69 points, or 1 percent, to 1,548.96.
Markets in Europe also finished higher. Germany’s DAX gained 1.8 percent, while France’s CAC 40 rose 1 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 1.2 percent.
After a steep decline in October, US stocks steadied in early November. But the selling picked up again as investors abandoned high-flying technology stocks amid concerns over the US-China trade tussle and slowing global economic growth and bailed on energy stocks as the price of oil plummeted.
Presidents Trump and Xi of China met at the G-20 summit over the weekend and agreed to a cease-fire, lasting for at least 90 days, to allow time to smooth out a dispute over Chinese technology policies that the US and other trading partners consider predatory.
Trump agreed to hold off on plans to raise tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, which were supposed to kick in on Jan. 1. In return, Xi agreed to buy a “very substantial amount” of agricultural, energy and industrial products from the US to reduce its large trade deficit with China, the White House said.
The US had announced tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports this year, with the tax rate on many products set to rise Jan. 1, while China put new taxes on $110 billion in US goods.
While the truce has the potential to steady markets through the end of the year, the countries still need to hammer out a lasting trade deal.
“Three months is not a very long time to achieve this so there are naturally plenty of skeptics out there but this is a rare piece of good news in a conflict that has yet to produce any,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.
The trade truce was one of several factors that helped push oil prices higher Monday. Crude prices also jumped on news that Qatar will withdraw from OPEC in January. The move, which marks the first time a Mideast nation has exited the cartel since its founding in 1960, came ahead of an OPEC meeting on Thursday.
In addition, the government of the Canadian province of Alberta announced a large cut in oil production Monday.
“We expect OPEC to follow suit and agree to a production cut in Vienna this coming Thursday,” analysts with Goldman Sachs wrote in a published note Monday.
Benchmark US crude gained 4 percent to settle at $52.95 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 3.8 percent to close at $61.69 per barrel in London.
Oil prices had been falling in recent weeks as supplies built up, partly because the US agreed to hold off on sanctions for countries that import oil from Iran. Traders have also been worried that a slowdown in global economic growth will reduce demand for fuels.
Monday’s pickup in oil prices gave energy stocks a boost. Devon Energy climbed 6.4 percent to $28.77.
Gains in technology companies helped drive the market higher. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices jumped 11.3 percent to $23.71.
Auto manufacturers also rose after Trump said on Twitter late Sunday that Beijing agreed to cut import duties on US autos. There was no Chinese confirmation of the move, which would have little impact on trade because most American vehicles sold in China are made there.
Ford Motor rose 2 percent to $9.60, while General Motors added 1.3 percent to $38.45. Tesla gained 2.3 percent to $358.49.
A couple of corporate deals also helped move the market Monday.
Tribune Media jumped 11.7 percent to $44.98 after the TV station owner agreed to be acquired by Nexstar Media Group, four months after a bid from Sinclair Broadcast Group collapsed. Nextar shares added 6.9 percent to $88.32.
GlaxoSmithKline PLC slumped 7.8 percent to $38.61 after the drugmaker agreed to acquire Tesaro, which makes the ovarian cancer treatment Zejula. Shares in Tesaro soared 58.5 percent to $73.50.
Meanwhile, Wynn Resorts gained 9.5 percent to $119.79 after the gambling revenue in Macau rose last month at a higher rate than analysts expected.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.97 percent from 3.01 percent late Friday.
The dollar rose to 113.69 yen from 113.63 yen late Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1342 from $1.1309.
Gold gained 1.1 percent to $1,239.60 an ounce. Silver jumped 2 percent to $14.50 an ounce. Copper added 0.8 percent to $2.81 a pound.
Wholesale gasoline gained 2.1 percent to $1.43 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 3.2 percent to $1.89 a gallon. Natural gas lost 5.9 percent to $4.34 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Major indexes in Asia finished higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng surged 2.6 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 index climbed 1 percent. The Kospi in South Korea jumped 1.7 percent. The S&P ASX/200 in Australia added 1.8 percent. Shares rallied in Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia.


Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

Updated 13 min 51 sec ago
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Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

  • Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent
  • NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday

BENGHAZI: Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said it was against paying a ransom to an armed group that has halted crude production at the country’s largest oilfield.
“Any attempt to pay a ransom to the armed militia which shut down El Sharara (oilfield) would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the recovery of the Libyan economy,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement on the company’s website.
NOC on Monday declared force majeure on exports from the 315,000-barrels-per-day oilfield after it was seized at the weekend by a local militia group.
The nearby El-Feel oilfield, which uses the same power supply as El Sharara, was still producing normally, a spokesman for NOC said, without giving an output figure. The field usually pumps around 70,000 bpd.
Since 2013 Libya has faced a wave of blockages of oilfields and export terminals by armed groups and civilians trying to press the country’s weak state into concessions.
Officials have tended to end such action by paying off protesters who demand to be added to the public payroll.
At El Sharara, in southern Libya, a mix of state-paid guards, civilians and tribesmen have occupied the field, camping there since Saturday, protesters and oil workers said. The protesters work in shifts, with some going home at night.
NOC has evacuated some staff by plane, engineers at the oilfield said. A number of sub-stations away from the main field have been vacated and equipment removed.
The occupiers are divided, with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) indicating they would end the blockade in return for a quick cash payment, oil workers say. The PFG has demanded more men be added to the public payroll.
The tribesmen have asked for long-term development funds, which might take time.
Libya is run by two competing, weak governments. Armed groups, tribesmen and normal Libyans tend to vent their anger about high inflation and a lack of infrastructure on the NOC, which they see as a cash cow booking billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues annually.