By Will Horner
U.S. stocks opened lower Thursday and U.S. government bond yields fell as worries over a protracted U.S.-China trade dispute added to a gloomy outlook for global growth.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 268 points, or 1%, to 25507 shortly after the opening bell. The S&P 500 dropped 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite declined 1.2%.
In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 1.2% by afternoon trading, with all sectors of the pan-continental index falling into the red.
Losses were heaviest for automotive and technology stocks which bear the greatest exposure to the recent flare-up of trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
In Asia, markets were broadly lower. The Shanghai Composite slipped 1.4%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng traded 1.6% lower and Japan's Nikkei lost 0.6%.
Investors sought the safety of government bonds as a batch of European economic data suggested a surprise rebound for the region's economy at the start of the year would be short-lived.
A measure of business sentiment in Germany dropped sharply while surveys of purchasing managers pointed to weaker demand for eurozone exports and a struggling manufacturing sector.
Yields on 10-year U.S. government bonds, which fall as prices rise, hit a 52-week low of 2.356%.
Kit Juckes, a macro-strategist at Société Générale, said investors would read a lot into the data as they looked for clues as to whether growth would rebound or slip back.
"The market is uncertain about where we go next. Anything that gives the market a cue will be latched onto, so we will overreact to weak data," he said.
Investors were also looking ahead to the European Parliamentary elections that began in the U.K. and the Netherlands Thursday. Populist parties are predicted to perform well across Europe when continentwide results are announced Sunday.
That could make compromises between European Union governments less likely and embolden euroskeptics, said Jörg Krämer, chief economist at Commerzbank.
"After victory in the European elections, the parties critical of the European Union will become even more self-confident," he said in a recent note. "This will cause nervousness in the market."
The British pound lost another 0.2% against the dollar as a last-ditch attempt by Prime Minister Theresa May to win support for her Brexit plan looked unlikely to succeed. The resignation Wednesday of Andrea Leadsom, the latest cabinet member to quit over Brexit, further hit sterling.
Uncertainty over the U.S.-China trade dispute -- with no date yet set for more talks -- was also making investors pessimistic about hopes for a resolution, analysts said.
Mixed messages on the issue made it hard for investors to settle on a likely outcome, said Geoffrey Yu, head of the U.K. Investment Office at UBS Wealth Management.
"Investors may have trouble focusing on too many narratives at once. Right now, tensions between the U.S. and its major trading partners continue to drive stock market volatility," Mr. Yu said.
Investors were also weighing the latest meeting minutes from the Federal Reserve, which reinforced the view that the central bank will leave interest rates unchanged for now. The meeting took place before the recent flare up in trade tensions.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 23, 2019 09:54 ET (13:54 GMT)
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