Asian shares gain as US, China agree to hold trade talks

Reuters TOKYO | Updated on August 17, 2018 Published on August 17, 2018

MSCI emerging markets index closed at 13-month low on Thursday.   -  Reuters

Turkish lira maintains gains but seen vulnerable

Asian shares won a modest reprieve on Friday after China and the United States agreed to hold their first trade talks since June next week and as the Turkish lira extended gains from its record low earlier this week.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.46 per cent, a day after it hit its lowest level in a year. Japan's Nikkei advanced 0.5 per cent.

European shares are expected to be little changed, with financial spreadbetters looking at an almost flat opening in three major European bourses .

In US markets on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.58 per cent and the S&P 500 gained 0.79 per cent. MSCI's index of world stocks rose 0.63 per cent on Thursday, the biggest gain in a month.

News that a Chinese delegation led by Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen will meet US representatives helped to improve the mood.

The meeting is set to take place as the world's two largest economies are due to slap tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods on August 23, in addition to levies that took effect on July 6.

But there are doubts over whether lower-level talks can resolve the trade dispute given what is at stake. White House Economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned Beijing not to underestimate President Donald Trump's resolve in pushing for changes in China's economic policies.

Indeed, Chinese share markets were hardly impressed by the news. The Shanghai composite index fell 0.5 per cent by early afternoon for a weekly fall of 3.7 per cent, risking a close below a 2-1/2 year low set on August 6.

MSCI China, mostly made up of Chinese shares listed in Hong Kong and the United States, has fallen 5.9 per cent so far this week. That weighed on MSCI emerging markets index, which closed at a 13-month low on Thursday.

That weakness also stemmed from falls in emerging market currencies after the Turkish lira plunged this month on concerns about diplomatic rifts between Ankara and Washington.

“Because of the currency crisis in Turkey, investors are shifting funds from emerging markets to developed markets,” said Shuji Shirota, head of macro economic strategy at HSBC Securities in Tokyo.

“But if you look at longer-term prospects, the US could be affected if the trade disputes linger. Given a US president tends to do badly in his first mid-term election, he might do more on trade issues after the election,” he added.

In the currency market, the lira slipped 0.8 per cent to 5.84 per dollar but it retained much of its rebound this week and up almost 25 per cent from its record low of 7.2400 hit early on Monday, despite threats of more sanctions from Washington.

It has gained some support from the announcement late on Wednesday of a Qatari pledge to invest $15 billion in Turkey.

The offshore Chinese yuan weakened slightly after a 1.2 per cent climb on Thursday, the biggest daily gain since January 2017 following the trade talks news.

The yuan last stood at 6.8770 per dollar, down 0.25 per cent on the day but still off Wednesday's 19-month low of 6.9587.

“We believe that the wave of RMB depreciation is probably over and that renewed fiscal stimulus (in China) will bring a halt to decelerating growth as well as higher interest rates supporting a stronger RMB,” Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, said in a note.

The euro, which has been affected by concerns about European banks' exposure to Turkey, traded at $1.1375, almost flat on the day and off a 13-1/2-month low of $1.1301 on Wednesday.

The yen changed hands at 110.97 per dollar, unchanged from Thursday. The pound rose 0.12 per cent on Thursday after 10 straight days of falls though concerns about a hard Brexit continued to undermine the sterling.

Oil prices were on the defensive, on a weakening outlook for crude demand despite their gains on Thursday thanks in part to a recovery in global shares.

Brent crude oil futures fetched $71.36 a barrel, down 0.1 per cent in Asia on Friday after a 0.69 per cent rise the previous day. They are on course to log the seventh straight week of losses. US crude futures stood at $65.43 a barrel, down 0.05 per cent.

Published on August 17, 2018

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