World stock markets retreat ahead of US jobs report


Global stock markets retreated Friday ahead of the monthly U.S. jobs report and after France and Germany reported weak factory data.

Investors also continued to monitor the impact on businesses of the virus outbreak in China.

Germany’s DAX lost 0.6% to 13,490 while the CAC 40 in Paris was down 0.4% at 6,016. Britain’s FTSE 100 gave up 0.7% to 7,452. On Wall Street, the future contracts for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average both fell about 0.3%.

Germany reported new manufacturing orders fell 2.1% in December and industrial production dropped 3.5% from a year earlier while France reported factory output fell 2.8%, adding to concerns over slowing growth in Europe.

Investors are looking ahead to U.S. employment figures due out Friday.

Economists estimate that employers added 161,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate remained at a 50-year low of 3.5%, according to data provider FactSet. That pace of hiring would be weaker than the monthly average of the past two years yet still more than enough to reduce unemployment over time.

Markets got a boost Thursday after Beijing said it will cut duties on $75 billion of U.S. goods as part of a trade truce with Washington, but the focus in Asia remained firmly on the impact of the new virus outbreak.

China’s tariff cut “boosted sentiment,” though “gains were tempered by continued concerns around the impact of the coronavirus outbreak,” Mizuho Bank said in a report.

Beijing is promising tax cuts and other help to businesses in a bid to offset the economic blow from the virus outbreak that has put the world’s second-largest economy on lockdown. The extent of potential losses is unclear.

Standard & Poor’s estimates that it will reduce Chinese growth this year to 5% from the previous forecast of 5.7%. It says, however, that that will largely be made up for in 2021.

On Friday, there were 31,400 people confirmed infected by the virus worldwide. China confirmed 31,161 cases and 636 deaths as of Friday. More than 310 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China.

Chinese factories and offices are starting to reopen following an extended Lunar New Year holiday, but companies are forecasting big revenue declines due to the closure of stores, amusement parks, cinemas and other businesses.

Japan’s Fast Retailing announced it has closed 350 stores, or about half of its 750 outlets in China to comply with quarantine regulations, while Toyota Motor Corp. said it was extending production stoppages at its China factories by an extra week, to Feb. 16. Nissan Motor Co. said January sales of the company and its local partners fell nearly 12% in January from a year earlier due to the virus outbreak and the prolonged holidays.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.3% on Friday to 27,404.27, while the Shanghai Composite Index rebounded, gaining 0.3% to 2,875.96. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.2% to 23,827.98.

The Kospi in Seoul sank 0.7% to 2,211.95 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 lost 0.4% to 7,022.60. India’s Sensex shed 0.4% to 41,135.82. Shares fell in Taiwan and Thailand but rose in Malaysia and Indonesia.

In energy markets, the benchmark U.S. crude contract was down 35 cents at $50.60 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 20 cents on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, also dropped 35 cents to $54.58 per barrel in London. It fell 35 cents the previous session.

The dollar declined to 109.86 yen from Thurdsay’s 109.97 yen. The euro fell to $1.0962 from $1.0979.