March 22, 2018 / 12:54 PM / a year ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Dollar, shares buffeted by trade war worries

* Dollar weakens broadly as trade worries compound Fed effect

* China bumps up short-term rates slightly

* Oil stalls at six-week high

* European shares down 1 pct, US stocks to open lower

By Marc Jones and Alasdair Pal

LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - The threat of a global trade war and a steady message from the Federal Reserve on U.S. interest rates pushed the dollar to its lowest in over a month on Thursday, and took Europe’s main share markets into the red.

It was the dollar’s third decline in four sessions and helped Britain’s pound to a six-week high after a Bank of England policy meeting laid the foundations for another UK rate increase in the coming months.

The Fed raised its key rate by 25 basis points to 1.75 percent on Wednesday and flagged at least two more increases were likely this year. But it stopped short of pointing to the three that some economists had been predicting.

China also nudged up its borrowing costs overnight, as Beijing braced for new tariffs from U.S. President Donald Trump on Chinese imports worth as much as $60 billion .

Not all Fed bulls were discouraged, though. “Over the balance of the year we do think they will move to four hikes,” said JP Morgan Asset Management’s Seamus Mac Gorain, highlighting the impact of recent fiscal stimulus.

Trade tariffs were a risk but more open economies such as Mexico or the euro zone could be more at risk than the United States, he said.

Those jitters, plus weaker-than-expected German business confidence data, caused European shares to fall 1 percent to a two-week low.

U.S. stocks were also set to open lower, with S&P 500 futures down 0.7 percent in pre-market trades.

Shares in tech giant Facebook were set to fall for a third successive day after its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg apologised for a “major breach of trust” over how it had handled data belonging to 50 million users.

In the currency market, the British pound hit a high of $1.4216, its highest in more than a month.

The Bank of England kept rates steady on Thursday but two of its policymakers unexpectedly voted for an immediate rate rise, in a statement that will boost investors’ confidence that borrowing costs will rise in May.

Bond yields - which move inversely to price - fell broadly. Borrowing costs on 30-year German debt hit their lowest level of the year.

Two-year U.S. yields slipped to 2.305 percent from 9 1/2-year high of 2.366 percent. The 10-year yield fell below 2.85 percent, its biggest move in three weeks.

“The threat of protectionism is dampening the mood in the German economy,” said Clemens Fuest, the chief of the Munich-based Ifo institute, which published the business sentiment data.


MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ended almost flat, a 1 percent drop in Chinese and Hong Kong stocks offsetting gains elsewhere.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.0 percent as investors went bargain hunting after a difficult run for the market.

China hopes it can hold talks with the United States to achieve a “win-win” solution on trade, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing.

But worries were swirling of a more traditional kind of war. A widely read Chinese state-run newspaper said on Thursday that the country should prepare for military action over Taiwan.

Beijing was infuriated after Donald Trump signed legislation last week that encourages the United States to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa.

Concern about a trade war between the world’s two largest economies also put commodity markets on guard.

Oil prices gave up earlier gains to leave Brent crude futures at $68.98 per barrel and U.S. crude at $64.76 a barrel.

Copper steadied at $6,791 per tonne after reaching a three-month low on Wednesday.

Reporting by Marc Jones and Alasdair Pal, editing by Jon Boyle

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