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Stocks mixed on US-China dispute; oil pushed up by hurricane

SINGAPORE — World markets were mixed Wednesday as investors focused on trade tensions, with China delaying licenses to American businesses ahead of expected tariffs from Washington. The price of oil continued to rise on concerns that Hurricane Florence could disrupt supplies.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.5 percent to 5,309, while Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.2 percent at 7,262. Germany’s DAX added 0.2 percent to 11,988. Wall Street was poised to open slightly higher, with Dow and S&P 500 futures both rose 0.1 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.3 percent to 22,604.61, and the Kospi in South Korea was almost flat at 2,282.92. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was 0.3 percent lower at 26,345.04. The Shanghai Composite index fell 0.3 percent to 2,656.11. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent to 6,175.90.

CHINA-U.S. TENSIONS: China is putting off accepting license applications from American companies in financial services and other industries until Washington makes progress toward a settlement, an official of a business group said Tuesday. The disclosure is the first public confirmation of U.S. companies’ fears that their operations in China or access to its markets might be disrupted by the battle over Beijing’s technology policy. The license delay applies to industries Beijing has promised to open to foreign competitors, according to Jacob Parker, vice president for China operations of the U.S.-China Business Council. The group represents some 200 American companies that do business with China. President Donald Trump’s administration is poised to slap tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods and is considering tariffs on $267 billion more.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “China’s ability to respond is limited in tariffs, the government is using what they call ‘qualitative measures,'” said Robert Carnell, head of research and chief economist at ING Bank. “You can’t put a number on that, but it’s not an idle threat. They could really make it hard for U.S. companies to operate in China.”

BREXIT DEAL: Hopes for a Brexit deal rose this week, pushing up the pound and helping stock markets. Britain’s Treasury chief Philip Hammond said Tuesday that he agreed with the EU’s Brexit negotiator that reaching a divorce deal with the European Union over the next two months is “doable.” Business groups and civil servants say a “no-deal” Brexit could cause disruption in shipping, barriers to trade with the bloc, a fall in the value of the pound and even shortages of essential goods.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 67 cents to $69.92 a barrel, after surging past $70 in the Asian session. The contract gained 2.5 percent to $69.25 per barrel in New York. The approach of Hurricane Florence and its potential to disrupt oil supply on the East Coast spurred gains. The U.S. is also getting ready to put sanctions on Iran’s energy industry. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 15 cents to $79.21 a barrel. It jumped 2.2 percent to $79.06 a barrel in London on Tuesday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 111.48 yen from 111.59. The euro was down to $1.1591 from $1.1605, and the pounds was roughly steady at $1.3023 after rising sharply the day before.

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