Stocks, dollar wobble as US-China trade talks open

China is pursuing the United States at the World Trade Organization for improperly imposing anti-dumping duties on some of its products

Stock markets wobbled and the dollar was mixed against main rivals Wednesday as trade talks opened between China and the United States in an effort to avoid an escalation of the fight.

Investors largely shrugged off Tuesday's dramatic happenings in Washington in which US President Donald Trump's former campaign manager was convicted and his ex-lawyer pled guilty to criminal charges.

"The political scandals are obviously not good news, but we don't know where it will go," said Tom Cahill of Ventura Wealth Management.

"The fact that the stock market is holding up very well is indicative that investors are concerned by other things than politics right now."

In Europe, both London and Paris closed higher, while Frankfurt ended essentially flat after having spent most of the day in the red.

US stocks ended mixed, with the Dow retreating and the Nasdaq pushing higher.

The S&P 500 finished narrowly lower as the broad-based stock index ended its 3,453rd straight session without a drop of 20 percent over a more than nine-year stretch, the longest-ever bull market.

CFRA chief investment strategist Sam Stovall said Wednesday's muted response to the Trump news was "a classic example of ignoring the headlines and focusing on the bottom line."

"We think bull markets don't die of old age, they die of fright and are most afraid of recession," Stovall said. "However, we don't see a recession on the horizon."

Oil prices surged higher following a surprisingly big drop in US petroleum stockpiles.

On currency markets meanwhile, the dollar continued to stutter after Trump's negative remarks earlier in the week about the Federal Reserve's interest rate rises.

The Fed itself signaled in meeting minutes it is girding to lift interest rates once again "soon" amid strong economic growth, even as it warned that an escalation of the trade disputes could dent the economy.

The pound was one of the best performers against the greenback, breaking above $1.29 for the first time in almost two weeks after top European Union negotiator Michel Barnier said officials would now work non-stop on Brexit talks, which are in their final stage.

Over in Frankfurt, shares in German auto parts giant Continental dropped more than 13 percent Wednesday after the group said annual profits would be slashed by falling sales and higher costs.

Shares in BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen also slid after Trump repeated a threat to impose a 25 percent tariff on cars imported into the US from the European Union.

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow Jones: DOWN 0.3 percent at 25,733.60 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 2,861.82 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.4 percent at 7,889.10 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,574.24 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: FLAT at 12,385.70 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 5,420.61 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.3 percent at 3,420.61 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 22,362.55 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.6 percent at 27,927.58 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 2,714.61 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1595 from $1.1571 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2914 from $1.2901

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.60 yen from 110.31 yen

Oil - Brent Crude: UP $2.15 at $74.78 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP $2.02 at $67.86 per barrel

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