Asian Shares Hit One-Year Low on Turkey, China Worries

TOKYO (Reuters) -
A man walks by an electronic board displaying stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Thursday. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Asian shares hit fresh one-year lows on Thursday, weighed by worries about China’s economic slowdown and Turkey’s currency crisis, though news of renewed trade talks between Washington and Beijing helped markets trim some of these losses.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.3 percent, after shedding as much as 1.1 percent to hit its lowest since Aug. 11, 2017.

Spreadbetters expected a better tone in European equities, forecasting a higher open for Britain’s FTSE, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC.

China on Thursday said a delegation led by its vice commerce minister would travel to the United States for talks in late August at the invitation of Washington.

That helped Chinese stocks pare losses, with both the Shanghai Composite index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index down 0.8 percent. Earlier in the day, Shanghai was down as much as 1.9 percent while Hong Kong was off 1.7 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei average closed 0.1 percent lower in choppy trade, with the benchmark falling as much as 1.5 percent before a brief swing into positive territory on China news.

The euro rose 0.3 percent and the offshore Chinese yuan gained 0.8 percent following Sino-U.S. trade talk news. U.S. stock futures rose 0.4 percent.

The announcement by the Chinese Commerce Ministry of the planned meeting in late August comes after a lull in talks between the two sides. The last official round of talks was in early June when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing.

Despite the modest reprieve, markets remain vulnerable as signs of a slowdown in the Chinese economy and Turkey’s volatile currency keep investors on guard.

“The news [of the China-U.S. trade talks] triggered short-covering but I think fundamentally it is of limited significance,” said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments.

Sakuma said Turkey’s market swings reflect the fact that it is one of the more vulnerable parts of the global economy at this stage in the interest rate cycle, as the Federal Reserve seeks to normalize its monetary policy.

However, he noted there were arguably larger risks for investors, such as weak earnings from Tencent Holdings Ltd .

The Chinese tech giant reported its first quarterly profit fall in nearly 13 years on weak gaming revenue.

That knocked other Asian tech firms with South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, Asia’s third largest firm by market cap, down to a one-year low.

Wall Street’s major indexes closed lower on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 down 0.8 percent, its biggest percentage drop since late June, amid disappointing earnings and escalating global trade worries.

“Negative news that comes from Turkey and China every day is upsetting global markets,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

“Also, Tencent’s earnings shock hurt tech stocks, sending the Nasdaq index lower. It reminded investors that the U.S.-China trade spat is starting to harm the health of even the tech firms, which had been a major driver of the U.S. share rally.”

Oil prices took an additional hit after data showed a surprise weekly increase in U.S. crude stockpiles, compounding worries about a weaker global economic growth outlook before bouncing back on the trade talk news.

U.S. crude oil last stood at $65.12 per barrel, after having fallen to two-month lows of $64.42 per barrel, following Wednesday’s 3.2 percent fall.