Thursday, 28 February: The major headline to begin Thursday was that President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s meeting in Vietnam ended without an agreement and as quickly as the news was revealed and Trump had spoken to the media, him and his Air Force One plane left Hanoi. The two leaders had met, with much anticipation for an agreement over North Korea’s use of nuclear weapons, with the Supreme Leader looking for sanctions’ relief from the US President. The abrupt ending to the discussions consequently cancelled a planned signing ceremony (of what people had hoped would be the agreement), while the working lunch remains on a hot plate. This was the second summit between the two; the first back in June 2018 resulting in little progress, and although a third summit hasn’t been ruled out, Trump is hopeful of a “good outcome” in the future.
Staying in Asia, data from China overnight revealed a 3-year fall in factory activity. The February PMI reading of 49.2 comes on the back of a 49.5 reading in January and is the lowest reading since March 2016. Anything below 50 in a PMI reading indicates a contraction in the sector, although it has been suggested the narrowing could be due to the Lunar New Year celebrations earlier in the month.
On the back of Trump’s weekend tweets regarding US-China trade tariffs, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has further signalled the US are set to drop the impending 25% tariffs on $200 bnChinese goods this weekend. The delay is just that at the moment; no further date has been identified, and neither a cancellation, so for now, the 10% tariff remains.
Asia stocks were mixed overnight as investors absorbed the weaker than expected factory data; the Shanghai Composite in China and Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped c.0.5%. European counterparts across the continent shrugged off the uncertainty with many trading higher over the course of the day. The FTSE 100 was littered with a number of ex-dividend stocks, dragging it lower by 0.24% at the close. Miners bore the brunt of the weak China data
Over in the US, GDP rose at a 2.6% annual rate in the final quarter of 2018. Although ahead of expectations, the reading falls short of the 3.4% growth rate in Q3 and 4.2% in Q2. The softer finish to the year came as a result of consumer spend tightening and a slow down in the US housing market. Growth over the coming year is expected to slow further amid global growth concerns, while the 2017 tax-cut boost tails away. These GDP figures were meant to be released in January but were delayed due to the Government shutdown. Equity indices on Wall Street slumped for the third day in a row, although the 2019 equity rally continues.