London Markets: U.K. stocks finish down slightly as trade conflict spooks buyers

U.K. stocks ended slightly lower Monday, tracking a downbeat mood across Europe, where fears of an escalating trade conflict between the U.S. and China and political uncertainty in Germany helped send markets lower.

What are markets doing?

The FTSE 100 index UKX, -0.03%  slipped less than 0.1% to end at 7,631.33, building adding slightly to a 1.7% slump from Friday.

The pound GBPUSD, -0.3012%  declined to $1.3247, from $1.3280 late Friday in New York.

What is driving the market?

Trade tensions remained in the spotlight after China announced plans for retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods worth $34 billion, including soybeans, whiskey and electric cars. Beijing’s move comes after U.S. President Donald Trump last week approved a first round of levies on about $50 billion in Chinese products and reportedly was drawing up a list for a second wave of tariffs against China.

Meanwhile, in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fragile coalition was under pressure over migrant issues, prompting increasing concerns that the government could falter. Merkel’s Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union, will reportedly decide on Monday whether to defy the chancellor on her immigration policies, which the CSU believes are too soft.

What are strategists saying?

“Markets are finally beginning to wake up to the risks of a global trade war, with equities falling across the globe. The negotiating style of President Trump had allowed investors to assume that his threats were hyperbole and part of his unique diplomatic style, and that he would step away from the brink rather than risk undermining the positive impact his previous policies have had on the stock market,” said Rebecca O’Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive Investor, in a note.

Read: Trump’s constant threats, reversals spur investors to see him as the boy who cried ‘Wolf!’

Stock movers

DS Smith PLC’s stock SMDS, -2.52%  fell 2.5% after the packaging company released full-year results.

Outside the FTSE 100, Virgin Money Holdings PLC VM., -2.17%  slipped 2.2% after the British lender accepted a £1.7 billion all-share takeover offer from CYBG PLC CYBG, -0.72% the parent of British lenders Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank. Shares in CYBG were down 0.7%.

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