Global Stocks Plunge, Suggesting a Grim Day on Wall Street

Posted December 6, 2018 8:39 a.m. EST

HONG KONG — Global stock markets fell sharply Thursday and Wall Street was poised for another sell-off after cautious hopes for a lasting trade truce between the United States and China were jolted anew by the arrest of a prominent Chinese technology executive.

Investors’ anxiety over the fragile peace between the world’s two largest economies mounted after the chief financial officer of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada at the request of the United States.

Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Saturday, the same night that President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping of China dined together in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and agreed to a 90-day pause in their countries’ trade war. The move was expected to renew tensions.

All major markets in Asia ended the trading day down more than 1 percent, and several slid further. Results were grimmer in Europe, where major indexes in London, Frankfurt and Paris hit their lowest levels in about two years.

In Asia, the tone for the day was set in Hong Kong, where investors rattled by Meng’s arrest focused their attention on technology stocks and the overall market dropped 2.5 percent. The shock wave was felt across the border in Shenzhen, where stocks fell 2.2 percent.

In Tokyo, the market fell nearly 2 percent after the governor of the Bank of Japan warned that the trade war would hurt the Japanese economy. Traders in Seoul, South Korea, pushed the market down more than 1.5 percent; stocks in Taiwan were down 2.3 percent.

Futures contracts that predict the performance of stocks indicated that the U.S. markets, which were closed Wednesday in observance of President George H.W. Bush’s funeral, would experience another day of selling when they reopened Thursday. Stocks on Wall Street fell more than 3 percent Tuesday.

Concerns persist that the tensions between the United States and China could further slow a global economy already showing signs of cooling.

“The world economy is still expanding at a rapid pace, but cracks are starting to appear in the global growth picture,” Brian Coulton, a chief economist at Fitch Ratings, wrote in a note to clients. Fitch has repeatedly warned of China’s debt binge and the challenges facing the second-largest economy after the United States.

The week began an optimistic note, with the announcement that Trump and Xi had reached a deal on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting. Stocks around the globe soared on the news.

But a series of tweets from Trump, who called himself “a Tariff Man” prompted a new round of selling.

The only thing that seems certain is more uncertainty, analysts said.

“While the likelihood of an ongoing dialogue after months of no discussions and the pause on tariffs are still positive developments, it’s clear that negotiations will be challenging and a source of volatility,” Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS wealth management, said in a note to clients.