Asian shares slip, looming US-China trade talks in focus(Update)


  • Markets
  • Monday, 11 Feb 2019

 SYDNEY: Asian shares started the week on the backfoot as investors were unable to shake off worries about global growth, U.S. politics and the Sino-U.S. trade war, keeping the safe-haven dollar well bid near a six-week top against major currencies.

Chinese shares see-sawed on Monday after they resumed trading following a week-long Lunar New Year holiday. The blue-chip index <.CSI300> was last up 0.4 percent, Australian stocks were down 0.6 percent while South Korea eased 0.2 percent.

That left MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan off 0.1 percent after it was toppled from a four-month top on Friday.

Trading volumes are expected to be light with Japan on public holiday.

Investors are now looking ahead to trade talks this week with a delegation of U.S. officials travelling to China for the next round of negotiations.

"After we went home on Friday, Asian equities closed the week weaker... reflecting an increased level of apprehension on whether or not the U.S. and China can find an agreement to de-escalate their trade tensions ahead of the March 1st deadline," said Rodrigo Catril, senior forex strategist at National Australia Bank.

"U.S.-led trade uncertainty along with increasing concerns over the extent of the current global growth slowdown has seen an increase in demand for core global bonds," Catril said.

"Against a backdrop of uncertainty and despite a Fed that is comfortably on hold, the dollar continues to win the least ugly contest."

The U.S. Federal Reserve has signalled patience on policy after it delivered four hikes in 2018, citing growing economic risks from a slowdown in global growth.

The dollar index held near a six-week high around 96.625 against a basket of currencies, after notching up its strongest weekly gain in six months as traders piled into the greenback in a safe-haven move. [nL5N2034P4]

The collapse in talks between U.S. Democrat and Republican lawmakers over the weekend amid a clash over immigrant detention policy raised fears of another government shutdown. [nL1N20503N]

That development was yet another worry for markets already under strain from a drumroll of gloomy news on the global economy. Last week, the European Commission sharply downgraded euro zone growth for this year and next and U.S. President Donald Trump added to the anxiety with a declaration that he had no plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the March 1 deadline to achieve a trade deal. [nL5N2023IE] [nL1N2020Z6]

"Growth is probably the big area of risk – the U.S. is still on a healthy track but China stabilisation is more hope than reality at the moment while European momentum continues to soften," JPMorgan analysts said in a note.

"Investors have plenty to be nervous about, including the ongoing growth softness in Europe and the risk this drags the other major geographies down with it."

The rising pressure on growth means the near term fortunes of the equity markets will partly depend on earnings from major U.S. companies. These include Coca-Cola Co , PepsiCo Inc , Walmart Inc , Home Depot Inc , Macy's Inc and Gap Inc for further clues about the health of the consumer sector.

Analysts now expect first-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies to decline 0.1 percent from a year earlier, which would be the first such quarterly profit decline since 2016, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Elsewhere, the euro was barely changed at $1.1324 after five straight days of losses took it to more than 2 weeks lows. Sterling dithered at $1.2934.

The Australian dollar inched up from Friday's one-month lows although sentiment was still cautious after the country's central bank opened the door to a possible rate cut. [nL3N2030DE]

Oil prices slipped on concerns about slowing global demand amid a pick-up in U.S. drilling activity. [O/R]

U.S. crude was 73 cents weaker at $51.99 per barrel while Brent fell 69 cents to $61.41. - Reuters

 

Earlier report:

Asian shares in tight range ahead of US-China trade talks

SYDNEY: Asian shares started the week on the backfoot on Monday as worries about global growth, U.S. politics and the ongoing Sino-U.S. tariff war kept investors cautious, while the safe-haven greenback held near a six-week top against major currencies.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a tad weaker after it was toppled from a four-month top on Friday.

Trading volumes are expected to be thin with Japan on public holiday, while Chinese markets reopen after a week-long break for the Lunar New Year holiday.

World stocks ended last week in the red amid uncertainty about global economic growth and trade tensions, posting their first weekly drop this year.

Still, Wall Street's main equity indexes recouped losses late on Friday, with the benchmark S&P 500 ending marginally positive and the Nasdaq adding 0.14 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.25 percent.

Investors are looking ahead to trade talks this week with a delegation of U.S. officials traveling to China for the next round of negotiations.

Of recent concern to markets was the collapse in talks between U.S. Democrat and Republican lawmakers over the weekend amid a clash over immigrant detention policy, raising fears of another government shutdown.

That development comes in the wake of other news headlines that markets have had to process since late last week. These include a sharp downgrade to euro zone growth this year and next and U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration that he had no plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline to achieve a trade deal.

"Growth is probably the big area of risk – the U.S. is still on a healthy track but China stabilization is more hope than reality at the moment while European momentum continues to soften," JPMorgan analysts said in a note.

"Investors have plenty to be nervous about, including the ongoing growth softness in Europe and the risk this drags the other major geographies down with it," they added.

"But U.S. trade policies shouldn't be high on the list, trade rhetoric will stay a problem though."

Markets will closely watch earnings from major U.S. companies including Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc, Walmart Inc, Home Depot Inc, Macy's Inc and Gap Inc for further clues about the health of the consumer sector.

Analysts now expect first-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies to decline 0.1 percent from a year earlier, which would be the first such quarterly profit decline since 2016, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

In currency markets, the dollar held near a six-week high around 96.665 against a basket of currencies, and had its strongest weekly gain in six months, as traders piled into the greenback in a safe-haven move.

The euro was slightly weaker at $1.1321 while sterling down 0.1 percent at $1.2933.

The Australian dollar hovered near one-month lows after the country's central bank shifted away from a previous tightening bias to say rates could now go in either direction.

The Aussie was last at $0.7092 after going as deep as $0.7060 on Friday.

Oil prices held near recent ranges with gains capped by concerns about slowing global demand.

U.S. crude was 13 cents weaker in early Asia at $52.57 per barrel while Brent had settled at $62.06 on Friday. - Reuters


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