Global stocks drift lower as US considers more tariffs

A bank employee stands near screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), left, and the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and South Korean won at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, July 19, 2018. Asian stock markets drifted without a clear direction on Thursday while investors wait and see further developments on global trade disputes. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A bank employee walks by screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), right, and the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and South Korean won at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, July 19, 2018. Asian stock markets drifted without a clear direction on Thursday while investors wait and see further developments on global trade disputes. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, July 19, 2018. Asian stock markets drifted without a clear direction on Thursday while investors wait and see further developments on global trade disputes. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL, South Korea — Global stock markets drifted lower Thursday as the U.S. mulled whether to impose new tariffs on autos and auto parts. Europe said it was preparing to retaliate in kind, denting one of the key drivers of global growth.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX fell 0.4 percent to 12,713 and France's CAC 40 was down 0.5 percent at 5,420. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 7,678. Futures augured small losses on Wall Street, with S&P and Dow futures both down 0.2 percent.

AUTO TARIFFS: The next big event on the global trade front may be the U.S. Commerce Department's decision whether to label imported vehicles and auto parts a threat to America's national security and whether to recommend tariffs to the president. Before the decision is made, manufacturers, suppliers, car dealers and foreign diplomats will line up Thursday to testify at a Washington hearing, seeking to head off new auto tariffs. The European Union said it was already preparing measures to retaliate.

ASIA'S DAY: Asian markets finished mostly lower with Japan's Nikkei 225 losing 0.1 percent to 22,764.68 while South Korea's Kospi shed 0.3 percent to 2,282.29. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 28,010.86 while the Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.5 percent to 2,772.55. But Australia's S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 6,262.70.

CURRENCIES: The British pound was the biggest mover, falling to 10-month lows of $1.2979, from $1.3071 the day before, after weak retail sales figures dented expectations of an interest rate hike in August. Elsewhere, the dollar rose to 113.04 yen from 112.85 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1591 from $1.1638.

EARNINGS: Corporate reports were underwhelming, with shares in French ad company Publicis down 8 percent after it said its revenue disappointed. Investors are also looking to earnings from Microsoft later in the day for insight into the health of the technology sector.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 81 cents to $67.95 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract rose 1 percent to finish at $68.76 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 87 cents to $72.03 per barrel in London. It added 1 percent to settle at $72.90 a barrel on Wednesday.

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