Asian stocks slip as new US-China tariffs add to growth risks

Reuters TOKYO | Updated on September 02, 2019 Published on September 02, 2019

An investor walks past a screen displaying stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai, China.   -  REUTERS

Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.24 per cent, led by a 0.5 per cent drop in Hong Kong's Hang Seng, after another weekend of violent anti-government protests.

Global stock prices fell on Monday after the US and China imposed new tariffs on each other's goods, reinforcing investors' worries over slowing global growth, with no clear end in sight for the trade war.

The E-mini futures for US S&P500 fell as much as 1.06 per cent in early trade and last stood down 0.39 per cent, while US Treasuries futures prices rose a tad.

Volumes remained thin in Asia ahead of a US public holiday and European shares are expected to open little changed, with pan-European Euro Stoxx 50 futures almost flat in early Monday trade.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.24 per cent, led by a 0.5 per cent drop in Hong Kong's Hang Seng after another weekend of violent anti-government protests.

Chinese shares, however, bucked the bearish trend, with the CSI300 index rising 1.1 per cent despite the trade row escalation. Providing some tailwind to mainland markets was a pledge by China's State Council to boost support for the economy.

Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a private sector survey, on Monday showed factory activity unexpectedly expanded in August, though gains were modest and contrasted with official data that pointed to further contraction.

“It's clear that Beijing is willing to support the economy through fiscal stimulus,” said Kenji Hashizume, senior fund manager at Mitsui Sumitomo DS Asset Management in Hong Kong.

“While I do not expect the Sino-US relations to keep deteriorating, it won't be solved easily either,” he said.

Washington slapped 15 per cent tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods on Sunday - including footwear, smart watches and flat-panel televisions - while Beijing imposed new duties on US crude, the latest escalation in a bruising trade war.

Several studies suggest the tariffs will cost US households up to $1,000 a year, with the latest round hitting a significant number of US consumer goods.

In retaliation, China started to impose additional tariffs on some of the US goods on a $75 billion target list. Beijing did not specify the value of the goods that face higher tariffs from Sunday.

Although US President Donald Trump has said the two countries will hold talks in September, there are doubts any such talks would lead to a breakthrough.

“So far Trump appears defiant though on the tariff hikes, blaming the Fed and American companies for their difficulties in dealing with the tariffs,” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP in Sydney.

“There is a long way to go though and re-establishing trust will be difficult after the experience since mid-last year. Share markets may still have to fall further to pressure Trump to resolve the issue.”

Many market players say the market's reaction was likely exaggerated by algorithm-driven players' flows in thin trading conditions at start of Asian trade on Monday.

Liquidity could be even more limited than usual because of a US market holiday on Monday.

“(The market move) goes to show you how many data mining algos are involved with equity linked compared to forex-linked. Was anyone surprised by these tariffs that took effect yesterday?” said Takeo Kamai, head of execution at CLSA in Tokyo.

Tension is also running high in Hong Kong, with police and protesters clashing in some of the most intense violence since unrest erupted more than three months ago over concerns Beijing is undermining democratic freedoms in the territory.

Thousands of protesters blocked roads and public transport links to Hong Kong airport and police made several arrests after demonstrators smashed CCTV cameras and lamps with metal poles and dismantled station turnstiles.

China, eager to quell the unrest before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, has accused foreign powers, particularly the US and Britain, of fomenting the unrest.

Oil prices also fell on Monday. Brent crude futures fell 0.37 per cent to $59.03 a barrel while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were almost flat at $55.15.

In currency markets, the dollar dipped slightly against the yen to 106.12 yen. The euro stood almost flat at $1.09905, not far from two-year low of $1.0963 hit in US trade on Friday.

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Published on September 02, 2019
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