Investors look at computer screens showing stock information in Shanghai, China. File Picture: REUTERS/ALY SONG
Investors look at computer screens showing stock information in Shanghai, China. File Picture: REUTERS/ALY SONG

Tokyo — Asian stocks were steady on Friday amid caution over developments in US-China trade negotiations, while the dollar perched near a five-month peak after the benchmark US treasury yield hit its highest in seven years.

Spread-betters expected European stocks to open mixed, with Britain’s FTSE dipping 0.1%, Germany’s DAX rising 0.13% and France’s CAC little changed.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little changed. The index was headed for a 1% loss this week.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.17% and Shanghai climbed 0.3% as some investors bet Beijing and Washington will reach a deal in the latest round of trade talks.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.35%, South Korea’s Kospi was up 0.3% and Australian stocks dipped 0.2%. Wall Street ended slightly lower on Thursday as investors grappled with US-China trade tensions after US President Donald Trump said that China "has become very spoilt on trade".

But helping ease some of the tension, Beijing had offered Trump a package of proposed purchases of US goods and other measures aimed at reducing the US trade deficit with China by about $200bn a year, US officials familiar with the proposal said.

A second round of talks between senior Trump administration officials and their Chinese counterparts started on Thursday, focused on cutting China’s US trade surplus and improving intellectual property protections.

"President Trump does not do the actual trade negotiations, which are done by officials from both sides," said Kota Hirayama, senior emerging markets economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.

"China should be well accustomed to Trump’s ways by now. Judging from how the talks are proceeding so far, there is a greater chance of the negotiations ending in some sort of a compromise instead of falling through, and such an outcome would bode well for risk sentiment," he said.

In currencies, the dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was steady at 93.471 after rising to a five-month peak of 93.632 on Thursday.

The index has gained about 1% this week, buoyed by the surge in US treasury yields, with the 10-year US treasury note yield hitting a seven-year peak of 3.128%. The euro was up 0.1% at $1.1805, but not far off a five-month trough of $1.1763 brushed on Wednesday. The currency has fallen nearly 1.2% this week, largely pressured by Italian political uncertainty.

Reports this week that Italian populist parties likely to form the country’s next government may ask the European Central Bank (ECB) for debt forgiveness have raised concerns about Italy abandoning fiscal discipline.

The dollar extended an overnight rally and rose to ¥111.005, its highest since late January. The greenback has gained about 1.4% against its Japanese peer this week.

Emerging-market currencies have also lost ground against the dollar this week as the rise in US yields showed little signs of slowing.

The Turkish lira fell to a record low against the dollar this week, the Brazilian real plumbed a two-year low while Mexico’s peso has shed more than 5% in May.

A retreat by Indonesia’s rupiah to a two-and-a-half-year low prompted the central bank to tighten monetary policy on Thursday for the first time since 2014 to support the currency.

"Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of the recent rupiah weakness has been the sheer speed in which the currency markets have turned against some emerging-market countries," wrote Sean Darby, chief global equity strategist at Jefferies.

"However, policy credibility is the most important tool and the fact that the Indonesian central bank has begun to tighten ought to alleviate some of the forex pressures."

In commodities, Brent crude oil futures were 16c higher at $79.46 a barrel after rising to $80.50 on Thursday, their highest since November 2014.

Brent has risen 3% this week and is headed for a sixth week of gains.

A rapid slide in oil supply from Venezuela, concern that US sanctions will disrupt exports from Iran, and falling global inventories have all combined to push oil prices up nearly 20% in 2018.

Inflation concerns, strong US economic indicators and concern over increasing debt supply have pushed treasury yields higher this week.