Worries of US-China trade spat weigh heavily on Asean markets

The departure of economic adviser Gary Cohn sparked renewed worries Trump may go ahead with his proposed import tariffs on steel and aluminium.

SINGAPORE: Most Southeast Asian stock markets fell on Thursday along with broader Asia as fears of a global trade war intensified on reports U.S. President Donald Trump would seek fresh tariffs on imports from China.

On Wednesday, a White House spokeswoman said the Trump administration is pressing China to cut its trade surplus with the United States by $100 billion, without specifying how it should be narrowed.

The surplus-cutting goal may be met by increased purchases of U.S. products such as soybeans or aircraft, or if China makes major changes to its industrial policies, cuts subsidies to state-owned enterprises or further reduces steel and aluminium capacity.

The tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese imports will target the technology and telecommunications sectors, two people who had discussed the issue with the Trump administration said on Tuesday.
The three major U.S. indexes declined by as much as 1 percent on Wednesday, while Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped more than 0.1 percent on Thursday as investors moved to bonds.
In Southeast Asia, Philippine shares fell 1.9 percent to a more than three-month closing low, on broad-based losses. 
"Philippine markets continued their slump as Wall Street posted sizable losses once more, with trade war concerns being at the centre once again," said Luis Limlingan, managing director of brokerage firm Regina Capital Development Corp in Manila.

"Much of the protectionist concern stemmed not only from the actions taken so far, but the prospect of further action, directed specifically at China (and potentially other parts of emerging Asia)."

The Sy family-controlled SM Investments Corp, SM Prime Holdings Inc and BDO Unibank Inc were the top drags. SM Investments fell 3.9 percent, SM Prime dropped 4.2 percent and BDO Unibank declined 3.1 percent. 
Malaysian shares fell 0.6 percent, weighed down by telecom and financial stocks. Axiata Group Bhd lost 3.7 percent.
Singapore dropped 0.6 percent, hurt by losses in financials and industrials. Lender DBS Group Holdings Ltd slipped 1.8 percent.
Indonesian shares declined 1 percent to their lowest close since early January, on weakness in financial and telecom stocks.
Telekomunikasi Indonesia fell 3.2 percent, weighing the most on the index.
An index of the country's 45 most liquid stocks lost 1.2 percent.
Thai shares closed higher in choppy trade, helped by materials and financials. Trading store chain operator Siam Makro Pcl gained 3.9 percent.
Vietnam shares eked out meagre gains to end higher for a fourth straight session. The index posted its highest close in 11 years.  
Financials rose with Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam gaining 6.9 percent.- Reuters


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