Shares stumble as China-US row over Hong Kong clouds trade deal outlook
Tokyo — Global shares slid on Thursday as a fresh row between Washington and Beijing over US bills on Hong Kong could complicate their trade negotiation and delay a “phase one” deal that investors had initially hoped to be inked by now.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.2%, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shedding 2% while Japan’s Nikkei dropped 1.6%. Chinese mainland shares dropped 0.6%.
US S&P500 futures dropped 0.5% in Asian trade, a day after MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks fell 0.4%, the biggest fall since early October. On Wall Street, all three major indexes fell, with the S&P 500 losing 0.38%.
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed two bills intended to support protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights.
The legislation, which has angered Beijing, has been sent to the White House for President Donald Trump’s approval. A person familiar with the matter said Trump was expected to sign it.
“China will surely take this as an interference into its domestic affairs and is likely to think it will no longer need to make concessions on trade,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.
The move came as trade experts and people close to the White House said completion of a “phase one” US-China trade deal could slide into 2020, as Beijing presses for more extensive tariff rollbacks, and the Trump administration counters with heightened demands of its own.
Trump said on October 11 that the deal could take as long as five weeks, and investors had initially expected an agreement by mid-November.
Asked on Wednesday about the status of the China deal, Trump told reporters in Texas: “I don’t think they’re stepping up to the level that I want.”
Trade jitters sent the 10-year US Treasuries yield down to 1.707%, near its lowest levels in three weeks and down more than 25 basis points from a November 7 peak of 1.973%, a three-month high.
Similarly, in the currency market the yuan hit three-week lows, trading as low as 7.0450/$ in onshore trade.
The dollar slipped 0.3% against the yen to 108.31, compared to this week’s high of 109.07 touched on Monday, while safe-haven gold edged up 0.26% to $1,474.9/oz.
The euro was little changed at $1.1075.
Tomoo Kinoshita, chief economist at Invesco Asset Management in Tokyo, said the market is unlikely to completely give up hopes on the trade deal.
“There have always been some uncertainties in trade talks but that won’t erase positive effects from signs of bottoming out in the global manufacturing sector,” he said.
The minutes from the Federal Reserve’s previous policy meeting published on Wednesday offered little guidance on what would cause policymakers to change their minds on the outlook after an increasingly divided Fed decided to hit pause in its easing cycle.
Oil prices also dipped, paring some of their 2% gains made on Wednesday after a better-than-expected US crude inventories report and as Russia said it would continue its co-operation with Opec to keep the market balanced.
Global benchmark Brent futures dropped 0.4% to $62.16. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 0.39% at $56.79 a barrel in early Thursday trade.
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