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China trade data calms volatile global markets

By David Randall
Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York

By David Randall

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stronger-than-expected Chinese export data helped push global stock markets higher on Thursday following a volatile week that had investors scrambling for safety on fears of a worldwide economic pullback.

Investors were encouraged by data showing Chinese exports rose 3.3% in July from a year earlier, beating an expected decline of 2%. Chinese imports fell less than forecast, despite the U.S.-China trade war.

Markets went into a tailspin on Monday after China let its currency weaken beyond 7 yuan per dollar, a surprise move that investors took as retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement of more tariffs on Chinese imports.

Investors fear the trade conflict between the world's two biggest economies will cause a global recession. Bond markets have flashed red and a closely watched U.S. recession indicator reached its highest level since March 2007.

"There's a little bit of calm back in the market at the moment," said Peter Kinsella, global head of FX strategy at UBP. "But the ball is very much in Trump's court."

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe <.MIWD00000PUS> gained 1.55% following broad gains in Europe. The index is now down 0.4% for the week.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 371.46 points, or 1.43%, to 26,378.53, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 54.13 points, or 1.88%, to 2,938.11, and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 176.33 points, or 2.24%, to 8,039.16.

Investors have rushed for the safety of bonds this week as fears of a recession jumped. Yields on U.S. 30-year Treasury bonds <US30YT=RR> fell as low as 2.123% overnight, not far from the record low of 2.089% set in 2016. Ten-year yields <US10YT=RR> dropped further below three-month rates, an inversion that has reliably predicted recessions in the past. [US/]

Benchmark 10-year notes <US10YT=RR> last fell 7/32 in price to yield 1.7138%, from 1.691% late on Wednesday.

The Philippines on Thursday became the latest country to cut interest rates, citing "benign inflation" and "the risks associated with weakening global growth." That followed aggressive moves by central banks in New Zealand, India and Thailand that had surprised markets on Wednesday..

"Financial markets are raising risks of recession," said JPMorgan economist Joseph Lupton, saying that the "alarm bell" was loudest in the government bond market.

Few investors think the United States and China will be able to resolve their trade dispute any time soon, and many are bracing for another confrontation.

"This most recent escalation in the U.S.-China trade clash has increased the risk of a complete fallout in the negotiations considerably," said Vasileios Gkionakis, a strategist at Lombard Odier, adding that the probability of a "deal breakdown" had increased to 40% from 25% previously.

Gold has surged this week as investors scrambled to find somewhere safe to park their cash, rising above $1,500 for the first time since 2013.

The dollar was steady, trading at $1.1196 <EUR=EBS> against the euro.

Oil prices regained some ground on expectations that falling prices could lead to production cuts. [O/R]

Brent crude <LCOc1> climbed 2.6% to $57.69, following steep losses on Wednesday. U.S. crude <CLc1> rallied 3.3% to $52.77 a barrel.



(Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler)