August 30, 2018 / 11:19 AM / 3 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stock market's advance grinds to a halt on China concerns

* World stock index dips from five-month high

* Chinese stocks drag on Asian, European bourses

* Sterling holds on to gains on Brexit optimism

* Argentinian peso in the doldrums on request to IMF

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh (Adds U.S. stock futures, updates prices)

By Abhinav Ramnarayan

LONDON, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Stock market gains came to a grinding halt on Thursday, held back by concern that China will be left behind as the United States nears trade agreements with other North American countries and Europe.

Stock markets and major government bond yields rose in recent weeks on hopes that a global trade war could be averted, particularly with the leaders of the United States and Canada optimistic they could reach a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by Friday.

But with tariffs beginning to hurt the Chinese economy, Asian stocks lost some of their gains and European shares followed suit on Thursday on concerns over trade relations between the world’s two largest economies.

Craig Erlam, a senior market analyst at FX broker OANDA, said there’s a sense of urgency on NAFTA talks as the countries try to complete the deal before a new Mexican government takes control, and ahead of a mid-term vote in the United States.

“It doesn’t mean the U.S. will look for a quick solution with China,” he said. “There’s still a long way to run with these trade situations, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more tariffs on more goods before it gets better.”

A Reuters poll showed activity among China’s manufacturers probably slowed for the third straight month in August .

This pushed the Shanghai Composite Index down 0.9 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.8 percent, and in turn hit European stocks on worries that reduced Chinese demand would hurt exporters.

A pan-European stock index dropped 0.3 percent on Thursday, dragging the MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, off a five-month high.

The export-dependant German DAX underperformed and was down half a percent. Futures pricing suggested U.S. stocks were also set to open lower, having hit fresh record highs overnight.

“Investors are relatively pessimistic and cautious for now amid low levels of trading volume, as there are still concerns over the development of the Sino-U.S. trade spat,” said Yan Kaiwen, an analyst with China Fortune Securities.

U.S. tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese goods are expected to take effect next month.

BREXIT BOOST

Positive signals from London and Brussels over the trade component of EU divorce talks drove sterling higher against the euro on Thursday, though the risk of a no-deal Brexit kept the British currency well off its 2018 highs.

The gains came as European Union negotiator Michel Barnier signalled an more accommodative stance towards London in ongoing talks.

“It is a slight change in tone from Barnier and a sign that the EU is very aware of the Brexit deadline and they don’t want a no-deal Brexit any more than we do,” said Erlam of OANDA.

EMERGING TROUBLES

Meanwhile, yet another emerging market currency is under scrutiny, this time Argentina’s, after the country asked the International Monetary Fund for early assistance, alarming investors and hurting the peso and the country’s bond prices.

The IMF said it was studying the request from Argentina to speed up disbursement of a $50 billion loan.

The Argentinian peso dropped more than 7 percent on Wednesday, its biggest one-day decline since the currency was allowed to float in December 2015.

Yields on Argentina’s 100-year bond issued last year rose to its highest level yet at 9.859 percent overnight.

The peso’s plunge came after a currency crisis hit Turkey earlier in the month, sparking worries about all emerging markets. The Turkish lira retreated to a two-week low after Moody’s on Wednesday downgraded 20 Turkish banks.

In commodities, Brent crude futures extended gains and was up 0.59 percent to $77.73 per barrel. U.S. crude futures climbed 0.62 percent to $69.93 per barrel.

Oil contracts had risen more than 1 percent on Wednesday, supported by a drop in U.S. crude and gasoline inventories and as U.S. sanctions reduced Iranian crude shipments.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets open a news window on Reuters Eikon by pressing F9 and type in “Live Markets” in the search bar. (Reporting by Abhinav Ramnarayan, additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in Tokyo, editing by Larry King and Ken Ferris)

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