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Global stocks hold firm despite US tariff confirmation

Global stocks hold firm despite US tariff confirmation

LONDON — Global stock markets held their own Friday after President Donald Trump announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. South Korea's Kospi was a notable riser, jumping 1.1 per cent on news Trump plans to meet with North Korea's leader. How stocks in Europe and the U.S. end the week could turn on upcoming U.S. jobs and wages data.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France's CAC 40 was up 0.1 per cent at 5,260 while Germany's DAX fell 0.3 per cent to 12,320. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was steady at 7,206. U.S. markets were headed for a flat opening.

TARIFFS IMPACT: After a week of trying to determine the impact of potential U.S. tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, markets largely brushed aside confirmation that Trump was going ahead with his plan. Now, investors are wondering what countries will be exempt. Trump has already said that Canada and Mexico will be exempted indefinitely provided they agree to renegotiate a North American trade deal to his satisfaction. The EU is looking to be exempted too but has said it will retaliate if the U.S. slaps tariffs of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminum.

NORTH KOREA: Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un by May to negotiate an end to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, South Korean and U.S. officials said Thursday. No American president has ever met with a North Korean leader while still in office. The news gave a boost to South Korea's Kospi, which ended 1.1 per cent higher at 2,459.45

ANALYST TAKE: "While the U.S. president may have signed tariffs into law, his apparent success regarding North Korea has also helped to keep risk sentiment on the front foot," said Chris Beauchamp, Chief Market Analyst at IG.

US JOBS: How markets actually finish the day could well hinge on the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for February. The figures, which often set the market tone for a week or two after their release, could have a big impact on expectations on the pace at which the Federal Reserve raises interest rates this year. The consensus in the markets is that the U.S. generated 200,000 jobs in February and that the unemployment rate ticked down to 4 per cent . However, more interest will likely centre on the wage increase number — a higher than expected reading last month prompted a week of turmoil in the markets.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.5 per cent to finish at 21,469.20. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 per cent to 5,963.20. Hong Kong's Hang Seng also rose 1.1 per cent , to 30,996.21. The Shanghai Composite index added 0.6 per cent to 3,307.17.

ASIAN CENTRAL BANKS: The Bank of Japan kept its ultra-lax monetary policy intact, as expected, at a policy meeting that ended Friday. Meanwhile, People's Bank of China Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan told reporters China can be bolder about opening its financial markets following progress in developing financial regulation, improving management of financial institutions and Beijing's efforts to promote use abroad of its tightly controlled currency, the yuan.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 43 cents to $60.55 barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 59 cents to $64.20 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell 0.1 per cent to $1.2295 while the dollar rose 0.6 per cent to 106.83 yen.

The Associated Press