World stocks jittered Thursday as fears returned of a global trade war sparked by US tariffs, just after global equities had started to recover from concerns over a fresh eurozone crisis.
The US market opened in the red just before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced steep tariffs steel and aluminium imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico.
For weeks the markets had been on a roller coaster ride after US President Donald Trump announced the tariffs in March.
Since then, world leaders have made repeated appeals to safeguard the international trade system.
European stocks were also down in afternoon trading, even though they had appeared to be on the path to recovery in earlier action, with investor fears fading after the worst of the political storm in Italy.
The euro climbed as inflation in the eurozone leaped to the ECB's target in May, fuelled by a huge increase in oil prices as the US decided to pull out of a nuclear deal with Iran.
Asian equities earlier Thursday bounced back from the previous day's mauling as fears of turmoil in Italy were soothed by conciliatory noises from the country's two biggest populist parties.
‘Fears over an Italian snap election have receded,’ noted Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG traders.
The news had provided relief to global markets beginning Wednesday after they were sent spinning by the crisis in Italy -- the eurozone's third biggest economy -- which many feared could lead to fresh elections that could essentially become a referendum on euro membership.
- Volatility warning -
Oil prices were down but holding up after they also rallied Wednesday in response to a report that said OPEC would likely lift output gradually, soothing concerns about a new supply glut.
Crude markets have been hammered since OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and Russia last week indicated they could lift a cap on production, which has supported prices for two years, as an oversupply crisis eases.
Investors are looking forward to the release Friday of key US jobs figures, which could provide some idea about the Federal Reserve's plans for raising interest rates.
Payrolls firm ADP estimated US private sector job growth at 178,000 in May, down from 204,000 in April and slightly below analysts' expectations.
However, while sentiment is positive, analysts warned that ongoing geopolitical issues and the unresolved China-US trade row continue to dog trading floors.
‘We are going to be filled with tremendous uncertainty over the course of the summer,’ David Ader, chief macro strategist at Informa Financial Intelligence, told Bloomberg Television.
‘If you look at things like the various economic surprise indices out there they have been slowing down, but on the other hand you still have a Fed hike coming in June. I see a lot of uncertainty, which results in a lot of volatility.’
- Key figures around 1345 GMT -
New York - Dow Jones: DOWN 0.5 percent at 24,543.36 points
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 at 7,711.32
Milan - FTSE MIB: UP 0.1 percent at 21,822.70 points
Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 5,422.98
Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.8 percent at 12,680.77
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,424.56
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 22,201.82 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.4 percent at 30,468.56 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.8 percent at 3,095.47 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1673 from $1.1664 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3318 from $1.3281
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.84 yen from 108.91 yen
Oil - Brent Crude: UP 12 cents at $77.84 per barrel
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 83 cents at $67.38
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