Fears of Deeper U.S.-China Trade War Pushes Asian Shares to 4-Month Low

TOKYO (Reuters) —
A currency trader walks near screens showing the foreign exchange rates at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Friday. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Asian stocks stumbled to a four-month low on Friday and crude oil plunged on worries the U.S.-China trade spat was developing into a more entrenched strategic dispute between the world’s two largest economies, pushing investors to safe-haven assets.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged down 0.2% to a fresh four-month low, and was on track for a third straight weekly loss, down 1.0% so far on the week.

Chinese shares recovered slightly, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite up 0.2% and the blue-chip CSI 300 rising 0.3%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.2%.

Japan’s Nikkei average dropped 0.7%.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1%, the S&P 500 lost 1.2% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.6%, as traders dumped cyclical names on fears that the escalating U.S.-China trade war would stymie global economic growth.

President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Washington’s complaints against Huawei Technologies might be resolved within the framework of a U.S.-China trade deal, while calling the Chinese telecom giant “very dangerous.”

Washington last week effectively banned U.S. firms from doing business with Huawei, the world’s largest networking gear maker, citing national security concerns.

The U.S. Commerce Department said on Thursday it was proposing a new rule to impose anti-subsidy duties on products from countries that undervalue their currencies against the dollar, another move that could slap higher tariffs on Chinese products.

China’s Commerce Ministry hit back on Thursday, with its spokesman saying if “the United States wants to continue trade talks, they should show sincerity and correct their wrong actions.”

Masanari Takada, cross-assets strategist at Nomura Securities in Tokyo, said the U.S.-China trade conflict “has not yet fully dented the global investor sentiment, so there is no panic-selling. But at the same time, the sentiment will likely remain weak.”

As flight-to-safety plays dominated global markets, the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield hit 2.292%, the lowest level since mid-October 2017, with the key parts of the yield curve inverted. The yield last stood at 2.326 percent.

Chotaro Morita, chief fixed-income strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities, said big falls shown in a fresh U.S. manufacturing survey appear to reflect expectations of a breakdown in the U.S-China trade talks.

“In the last couple of years, the PMI has had a very small gap with hard data, such as industrial output. So if that holds true this time, we could see factory production plunging into negative levels (compared to a year ago).

“Since the global financial crisis, U.S. output has fallen only once: from 2015 to early 2016 when the shale industry was badly hit. Markets could start to fret over a global slowdown as they have done late last year.”


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