Hong Kong (AFP) – Asian markets retreated on Friday at the end of a broadly positive week, with traders turning their attention to a Group of Seven summit that could see world leaders clash with Donald Trump over his latest tariff provocations.
While there remain concerns about a possible trade war and other geopolitical issues, equities have enjoyed a positive run since last Friday’s strong US jobs report that fuelled optimism in the global outlook.
The euro has also held on to its latest gains on expectations the European Central Bank will soon start winding down its crisis-era stimulus, while oil added to Thursday’s rally as Venezuela struggles to produce and export.
Japan’s Nikkei ended 0.6 percent down with dealers unmoved by news confirming Japan’s economy shrank for the first time in two years in January-March.
Hong Kong sank 1.8 percent after a six-day winning run and Shanghai slipped 1.4 percent despite forecast-beating trade data.
Sydney lost 0.2 percent, Singapore was down one percent and Seoul dropped 0.8 percent. Taipei, Manila and Jakarta were also sharply lower.
In early European trade London and Paris each fell 0.7 percent, while Frankfurt sank more than one percent.
As leaders arrive in Quebec for the G7 meeting, there is talk that Trump could expect some harsh words after he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
The move has led to retaliatory measures and sparked fears of a global trade war.
– Tense talks –
“Usually (the G7 summit is) a non-event for markets but with all the focus on escalating trade tensions amongst long-standing allies, there’s a good reason for investors to be chary as this meeting is unlikely to follow an orderly arrangement of discussion,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA.
“Even more so as Canada and Mexico have retaliated against a range of US exports and the EU has promised to do so as well.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said they expect tense discussions, while France’s Emmanuel Macron said governments should not be shy about making deals without Washington.
The White House’s stance on environmental issues is also expected to be on the agenda.
However, there is hope over China-US trade talks after they reached a deal allowing Chinese telecoms equipment maker ZTE to pay a $1.4 billion fine instead of being hit by a seven-year ban on selling to US firms.
Oil prices dipped a day after jumping at least two percent on a report that major producer Venezuela was struggling to ship its commodity.
Also providing support were signs of cracks in oil cartel OPEC, with some members not as keen as kingpin Saudi Arabia to end an output cap that has been in place with Russia for two years.
“While oil prices may have seen their near-term peaks, it’s highly unlikely prices will collapse but rather OPEC, through gradual supply increases, will guide prices low enough so US consumers will not feel the pinch, yet remain high enough to benefit the industry going forward,” Innes added.
– Key figures around 0810 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 22,694.50 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.8 percent at 30,958.21 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.4 percent at 3,067.15 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,653.77
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1790 from $1.1799 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3412 from $1.3421
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.60 yen from 109.73 yen
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 32 cents at $65.63
Oil – Brent Crude: DOWN 41 cent at $76.91 per barrel
New York – Dow Jones: UP 0.4 percent at 25,241.41 (close)