People walk past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average and the yen’s exchange rate against the dollar outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/TORU HANAI
People walk past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average and the yen’s exchange rate against the dollar outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/TORU HANAI

Tokyo — Asian share markets slipped on Wednesday, as the prospect of a rate cut by the Federal Reserve was countered by worry that a China-US first-stage trade deal could be delayed.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.33% from Tuesday’s three-month high while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.35% after hitting a one-year high the previous day.

On Wall Street overnight, the S&P 500 index touched a record intraday high, led by strong earnings from drug manufacturers such as Merck and Pfizer, before ending down 0.08%.

Markets had erased gains after Reuters reported a US  administration official said an interim trade agreement between Washington and Beijing might not be completed in time for signing in Chile in November as expected.

A disappointing profit report from Google parent Alphabet kept the technology-rich Nasdaq in the red, with the Nasdaq Composite falling 0.59%.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe slipped 0.06% in Asia on Wednesday from a 21-month high reached on Tuesday.

Since US President Donald Trump outlined what he called the first phase of a trade deal with China earlier in October, investors have bet on a trade truce between the two countries, driving global equities higher.

The expectation of further US monetary policy loosening also emboldened investors, with a reduction of 0.25 percentage point later in the day almost seen as a done deal.

“With a cut today completely priced in, markets are looking to the Fed’s stance on its policy outlook,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.

While Fed funds rate futures fully price in a 25- basis-point cut on Wednesday, only about a 30% chance of another cut in December has been priced in, compared with about 70% earlier this month.

“I think the Fed will clearly indicate that a rate cut in December is not its main scenario,” said Tomoaki Shishido, macro strategist at Nomura Securities.

The fading expectation of aggressive rate cuts by the Fed has lifted the two-year US bond yield to 1.644%, compared with a two-year low of 1.368% in early October.

The 10-year US treasuries yield stood at 1.833%, near a one-and-a-half-month high of 1.860% touched earlier this week.

That has helped to lift the dollar against the yen. The dollar was traded at ¥108.86, after having hit a three-month high of ¥109.07.

The euro stood at $1.1107, having bounced off from Tuesday’s low of $1.10735.

Sterling wobbled after Britain decided to hold an election on December 12 following Prime Minister Boris Johnson winning approval from parliament for an early ballot aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock.

While Johnson seeks to gain a parliamentary majority to ratify his Brexit deal, the election would be highly unpredictable as Brexit has fatigued and enraged swathes of voters, while eroding traditional loyalties to the two major parties, Conservative and Labour.

The currency last traded at $1.2861.

Oil prices slipped after an industry report that stocks at the Cushing delivery hub for the benchmark rose last week, shrugging off a drop in overall inventories.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude lost 0.47% to $55.28 a barrel while international benchmark Brent crude futures dropped 0.19% to $61.47 a barrel.

Reuters