Tariff deadline keeps focus on trade as 2019 draws to close

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    NEW YORK- The stock market looks set to end 2019 the way it began the year — highly sensitive to headlines from President Donald Trump’s global trade war.

    Stocks pulled back from record highs to start December, undermined by comments from Trump and others in his administration suggesting any deal to resolve the trade dispute between the United States and China would not come soon. But the market rebounded at the end of the week on Friday’s strong US jobs and a change in tone from Trump.

    Wall Street could see more volatility ahead of Dec. 15, when the next tranche of US tariffs on Chinese imports is set to take effect.
    At the start of the week, investors said equity prices were factoring in that those tariffs would be delayed if not canceled as Beijing and Washington work on a “phase one” trade deal. But subsequent tough talk from Trump officials has shaken those expectations somewhat.

    “Until we get some finality on this, the day-to-day is going to move on headlines that suggest progress or lack thereof,” said Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at SunTrust Advisory Services in Atlanta.

    While the dispute between the world’s two largest economies commands the spotlight, other trade issues also have drawn investor attention. They include a recent delay in ratification of the North American Trade pact, potential US tariffs on imported autos and Trump’s issuing surprise levies on steel imports from Brazil and Argentina.

    Optimism over a US-China truce has helped push the major Wall Street indexes to all-times highs recently, with the benchmark S&P 500 logging a gain of more than 20 percent so far in 2019. But as the latest swings show, lack of a resolution to a trade dispute that has lasted nearly two years continues to weigh on the market. – Reuters