Stock markets downbeat on US tax reform concerns

Traders have been spooked by reports that senator Marco Rubio is considering voting against his Republican party's tax plan if certain demands are not met

World stock markets mostly fell Friday following a sell-off on Wall Street, as traders fear US lawmakers will fail to pass much-vaunted tax cuts.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index managed to nudge higher, however, as investors tracked an EU summit focussed on Britain's departure from the European Union.

EU leaders on Friday approved the opening of the next stage of Brexit talks after reaching a deal on divorce terms with Britain, EU President Donald Tusk said.

The expected move was overshadowed, however, by lingering concerns about a US tax shake-up.

"Global stocks have come under pressure towards the end of the week, amid headwinds over the passing of US tax reforms," said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG trading group.

Tokyo's Nikkei was among the biggest losers, even with data showing Japanese business confidence at an 11-year high, while the euro struggled to recover from a disappointing European Central Bank meeting.

Wall Street stocks fell Thursday on reports that Republican senator Marco Rubio was considering voting against a final tax-cut deal if certain demands were not met.

The warning comes as at least two other members of his party remain uncertain about how they will vote, putting its wafer-thin majority in peril.

The surprise loss of the Republicans' once-safe Alabama seat this week has added to the sense of fear and once again raises questions about US President Donald Trump's ability to push through his economic agenda.

Hopes he would introduce market-friendly measures such as tax cuts, infrastructure spending and deregulation helped fire a global rally this year, with all three main US indices hitting multiple records.

But Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers, warned: "Markets are pricing a lot of optimism and usually only one thing happens when there is disappointing news.

"At these multiples, I believe that US markets are pricing in so much optimism that it doesn't leave any room for error," he said.

- Election worries -

Greg McKenna, market strategist at AxiTrader, predicted that "things won't get any easier in 2018 as candidates wonder about their electoral chances in the mid-term elections."

Tokyo ended-0.6 percent lower as the dollar fell against the yen on fading hopes for inflation-friendly tax cuts.

The fall came despite the Bank of Japan's latest quarterly Tankan report showing Japan's biggest manufacturers were the most confident they have been since 2006, as the world's number three economy continues to improve.

Hong Kong sank 1.1 percent, Shanghai retreated 0.8 percent and Singapore lost 0.5 percent, while Sydney eased 0.2 percent.

The euro rose against the dollar, one day after the ECB left eurozone interest rates on hold and maintained its massive stimulus.

And while the European Central Bank hiked its economic growth expectations for the eurozone, ECB head Mario Draghi indicated borrowing costs would remain low as long as inflation was tepid.

- Key figures around 1130 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,454.20 points

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.4 percent at 5,337.68

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 percent at 13,034

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,549.35

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 22,553.22 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 1.1 percent at 28,848.11 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,266.14 (close)

New York - DOW: DOWN 0.3 percent at 24,508.66 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1803 from $1.1781 at 2140 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3408 from $1.3431

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.16 yen from 112.37 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 16 cents at $63.47 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 36 cents at $57.40