Asian Stock Markets Retreat After Surge on China Tariff Cut

(AP) -
A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Asian stock markets retreated Friday following a surge after China announced a tariff cut on U.S. imports.

Market benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney all declined. Major Asian markets jumped more than 2% on Thursday after Beijing said it will cut duties on $75 billion of U.S. goods as part of a trade truce with Washington.

Wall Street closed higher for a fourth day, propelled by gains for technology stocks and strong corporate earnings reports.

China’s tariff cut “boosted sentiment,” though “gains were tempered by continued concerns around the impact of the coronavirus outbreak,” Mizuho Bank said in a report.

Chinese factories and offices are starting to reopen following an extended Lunar New Year holiday, but companies are forecasting big revenue declines due to the closure of stores, amusement parks and other businesses.

Japan’s Fast Retailing announced it has closed 350 stores, or about half of its 750 outlets in China to comply with quarantine regulations, while Toyota Motor Corp. said it was extending production stoppages at its China factories by an extra week, to Feb. 16. Nissan Motor Co. said January sales of the company and its local partners fell nearly 12% in January from a year earlier due to the virus outbreak and extended Lunar New Year holidays.

Beijing’s tariffs reductions, which follow U.S. cuts last month on Chinese goods, are part of a “Phase 1” trade agreement with Washington aimed at ending their fight over China’s technology ambitions and trade surplus. There was no indication that China had altered its cuts in response to the virus outbreak, but the surprise announcement helped to buoy market sentiment.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.6% to 27,320.42 and the Shanghai Composite Index was off 0.2% at 2,861.72. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.2% to 23,827.98.

The Kospi in Seoul sank 0.7% to 2,211.95 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 lost 0.4% to 7,022.60.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index rose 0.3% to 3,345.78. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3%. The Nasdaq climbed 0.7% to 9,572.15.

Beijing is also promising tax cuts and other help to businesses in a bid to offset the economic blow from the virus outbreak that has put the world’s second-largest economy on lockdown. The extent of potential losses is unclear.

Worries about the potential global economic fallout from the outbreak spurred a mid-January slump for U.S. stocks. Investors appear to have set aside those concerns this week, focusing instead on encouraging U.S. economic data and company earnings reports.

Cognizant led the gainers in the technology sector Thursday, vaulting 9.8%. The information technology consulting firm’s fourth-quarter earnings topped Wall Street’s expectations.