• Wed. May 17th, 2023

Asian markets mostly down as traders ease into weekend

Hong Kong: Asian markets fell on Friday as investors took their foot off the pedal after another healthy week, with eyes fixated on the next move in the China-US trade talks.

News out of Beijing that it had agreed a plan with Washington to start rolling back tariffs if negotiations progress fired a rally in late business on Thursday, and helped the Dow and S&P 500 to more records.

The announcement fanned hopes the world´s economic superpowers — who are currently finalising a mini trade pact as part of a wider deal — can resolve their long-running tariffs war that has hobbled the global growth outlook.

It also eased worries about the negotiations caused by reports that a hoped-for signing ceremony this month between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could be delayed until December.

“The elevation of discussion from a trade truce to a possible tariff rollback is important and suggests both China and the US have come under pressure to seal a deal,” National Australia Bank´s Tapas Strickland said in a note.

But dealers struggled in Asia after the White House failed to confirm the plan, while a report said there was some opposition within the administration to such a move.

Meanwhile, Trump trade adviser and China hawk Peter Navarro told Fox Business “there is no agreement at this time to remove any of the existing tariffs as a condition of the phase one deal. The only person who can make that decision is Donald Trump”.

– Pound subdued –

Adding to the malaise was a certain amount of profit-taking after another strong week across equity markets, which have been on a rally since last month as the trade talks showed progress.

Hong Kong fell 0.7 percent following a six-day advance, while dealers in the city were bracing for a fresh weekend of protests after the death of a student who sustained head injuries when he fell during clashes with police.

Shanghai gave up 0.5 percent after data showed Chinese exports and imports fell again last month, though not as quickly as expected, while Singapore was off 0.9 percent and Seoul retreated 0.3 percent.

Taipei lost 0.2 percent, Manila was down 0.7 percent and Jakarta gave up 0.1 percent.

Mumbai fell 0.2 percent and India´s rupee sank 0.5 percent after Moody´s lowered its ratings outlook on the country´s debt.

The pound remained subdued after taking a hit on Thursday from an economic growth downgrade for 2020 by the Bank of England that fuelled speculation it could cut interest rates soon.

The central bank kept rates on hold but the decision was split for the first time in more than a year, with two dissenters calling for a reduction in borrowing costs to fend off the feared downturn.

In early trade, London and Frankfurt dipped 0.3 percent, while Paris slipped 0.4 percent.

– Key figures around 0820 GMT –

  • Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 23,391.87 (close)
  • Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.7 percent at 27,651.14 (close)
  • Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 2,964.18 (close)
  • London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,381.24
  • Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2811 from $1.2813 at 2100 GMT
  • Euro/pound: UP at 86.25 pence from 86.23 pence
  • Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1050 from $1.1049
  • Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.27 yen from 109.29 yen
  • West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 50 cents at $56.65 per barrel
  • Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 49 cents at $61.80 per barrel
  • New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 27,674.80 (close)

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