Global concerns over economic growth made for a gloomy session across equity trading floors yesterday as investors digested weak indicators and tired of hoping for a US-China trade talks breakthrough.

Key European stock markets were all lower, with Frankfurt again the weakest performer after the outlook for German growth, crucial for the eurozone, became the focus of investor jitters.

Wall Street was also down at the opening bell in New York, poised to clock up a third day of losses.

"The past 24 hours has been dominated by growth concerns, with UK, eurozone, and now Australian GDP expected to come in significantly lower than had previously been speculated," IG analyst Joshua Mahony said.

Tokyo led the slump, while Hong Kong returned from the three-day Lunar New Year break also in the red as investors reacted to negative signals from the US ahead of crunch trade negotiations in Beijing.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are due to travel to China next week for a third round of talks.

But US President Donald Trump told reporters he did not expect to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping before the March 1 deadline, when US duties on $200 billion in Chinese imports are due to jump sharply.

Analysts say Trump meeting with Xi in person ahead of the cut-off would make a meaningful deal more likely, but had flagged the difficulty of matching schedules with the US president flying to Vietnam to meet North Korea's Kim Jong-Un later this month.

"While progress has been made in these fraught negotiations, the two sides still remain some way from a deal, denting market sentiment," said Mahony.

Top White House economist Larry Kudlow further doused expectations by saying Washington and Beijing are a "sizeable distance" apart in talks.

The imposition of the tariffs could weaken the global economy after a brief rally at the start of 2019, economists say.

Tokyo closed down two per cent, although Sony bucked the trend to soar more than four per cent after announcing a plan for share buybacks worth up to 100 billion yen ($910 million).

Global stocks had tumbled on Thursday after the European Commission slashed its eurozone growth forecast for this year on an unexpected slowdown in Germany, Brexit woes, tensions over lacklustre growth prospects in Italy, and French protests.

The commission, the EU's executive arm, is now expecting growth of 1.3 per cent in the eurozone this year, a significant cut from 1.9 per cent predicted in November.

The pound was little changed on the day after EU President Donald Tusk warned Thursday that there was "no breakthrough in sight" in Brexit talks, while the Bank of England warned that the UK economy was "not prepared" for a potential no-deal Brexit.


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