LONDON - Core euro zone bonds yields fell and Italian debt led a sell-off in the periphery on Monday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would hike U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods this week and target hundreds of billions more soon.
The move marked a major escalation in tensions between the world's largest economies and a shift in tone from Trump, who had cited progress in trade talks as recently as Friday, and renewed the bid for safe haven assets.
Global equity markets fell, with China's main indexes down five percent, while Treasuries rallied after Trump said tariffs on $200 billion of goods would rise on Friday to 25 percent from 10 percent.
The president also said he would target a further $325 billion of Chinese goods with 25 percent tariffs "shortly", essentially covering all products imported to the United States from China.
Germany's 10-year government bond yield, the benchmark for the region, went negative for the first time since April 30, down 2.4 basis points on the day to -0.002 percent.
Most other core 10-year yields in the bloc fell around two basis points.
Italian government bonds underperformed the rest of the periphery with renewed concerns about the stability of the Italian government adding to worries about global trade.
Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement raised pressure on its government partner, the League, on Sunday to dump a junior minister under investigation for corruption - a case that could pull the coalition apart.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio said on Monday a graft case involving a junior minister from the ruling League party would trigger a government crisis only if the League itself pushed for it.
Italy's short-dated bonds were up to six basis points higher in early trade before pulling back as the session wore on, while the spread of its 10-year debt over Germany widened to nearly 260 basis points for the first time since April 30.
The euro zone will report final service PMI numbers for April later in the session. March data showed business activity across the bloc to be lethargic, dipping to 51.6. A Reuters poll expects the April reading to come in at 51.3.
On Friday the U.S. economy showed signs of sustained strength with job growth surging in April, while unemployment fell to the lowest in nearly 50 years. However, wage gains did not accelerate, and the decline in the unemployment rate was driven largely by people leaving the labour force.
The report was supportive of the Federal Reserve's decision on Wednesday to keep interest rates unchanged and signal little desire to adjust monetary policy anytime soon.