China factory activity at 3-year low, export orders sag

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing in 2017

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing in 2017

While U.S. President Donald Trump postponed higher tariffs on Chinese goods earlier in February, few details of a possible deal have been released, and the future of trading relations between the world's two largest economies is still uncertain.

The trade conflict with the United States has also inflicted some damage, with the two countries hammering each other with punitive tariffs on more than US$360 billion in two-way trade. Any real change in Chinese policy and economy will take time to bring about, and current tensions over the mounting tariffs, which have put strain on both countries' economies, are not going to be recovered from very quickly.

The continued threat of tariffs would be disappointing news for industry and investors exposed to China and hoping for an end to the uncertainty and disruption caused by the trade war.

"Much still needs to be done before an agreement can be reached", U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a congressional panel in Washington.

Chinese manufacturers have been hurt by President Donald Trump's punitive tariffs in a fight over Beijing's technology plans and cooling consumer demand at home and overseas. -China trade talks, before pulling back after Lighthizer spoke.

According to equity market analysts in Reuters polls, global stock markets in 2019 will at best only recoup losses from the deep sell-off late past year.

The Toronto market's decline was led by financials and materials sectors, which together account for almost half of the composite index.

The U.S. economic data also prompted a rise in Treasury yields and a retreat in gold prices.

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The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 75.94 cents USA compared with an average of 76.07 cents United States on Wednesday. It showed little response to data showing Japan's factory output posted the biggest decline in a year in January.

The euro was 0.1 percent higher at $.1.13815 after slipping 0.15 percent on Wednesday.

The Swiss franc rose 0.4 percent against the dollar, rising following the news of the end of the summit between Trump and Kim.

The April gold contract was down US$5.10 at US$1,316.10 an ounce and the May copper contract was down 1.45 cents at US$2.95 a pound.

Sterling has rallied this week as investors ramped up bets that a no-deal Brexit is becoming less likely and that Britain's departure from the European Union may be delayed.

USA crude oil futures slipped 0.25 percent to $56.79 per barrel, losing a bit of steam after surging 2.5 percent on Wednesday.

Oil prices fell on Thursday amid weakening factory output in China and Japan and record USA crude output, although markets remained relatively well supported by supply cuts led by producer club OPEC.

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