Hong Kong (AFP) – Asian stocks drifted lower Friday as traders digested hawkish comments from US President Donald Trump on a brewing trade war and with an eye on all-important US jobs data due out later in the day.
After opening higher, Tokyo finished in the red, losing 0.4 percent while Seoul and Sydney also ended in negative territory.
Hong Kong outperformed its regional peers and was up one percent in afternoon trade, with the market playing catch-up after being closed on Thursday. Shanghai was closed.
Shinichi Yamamoto, a broker at Okasan Securities in Tokyo, told AFP “trading was thin as players were on the sidelines ahead of US jobs data to be released later in the day.”
Market players scrutinise the monthly jobs report from the US Department of Labor for clues on Federal Reserve monetary policy.
The Asian session followed a positive day for stocks in the US and Europe, with Wall Street closing higher for the third straight day, as investors’ fears over a full-blown US-China trade war eased.
However, officials from the world’s two largest economies traded fresh blows on Friday, reigniting concerns that a damaging trade war could be in the offing.
Trump ratcheted up the rhetoric against China, saying he had instructed trade officials to “consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate.”
The US leader has already asked for $50 billion worth of Chinese goods to be punitively taxed, which has sparked a formal challenge from Beijing at the World Trade Organization.
China hit back, with the commerce ministry saying it would “take them on until the end at any cost.”
Beijing has also unveiled plans for painful import duties targeting politically-sensitive US exports, including soybeans, aircraft and autos.
The trade spat weighed on European stocks at the open.
London dropped 0.3 percent, Frankfurt dipped 0.5 percent and Paris shed 0.4 percent.
– Key figures around 0730 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 21,567.52 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.1 percent at 29,833.31
Shanghai – Composite: 3,131.84 (Wednesday close)
Dollar/yen: UP at 107.36 yen from 107.29 at 0230 GMT
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2234 from $1.2256 at 0230 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3944 from $1.4013 at 0230 GMT
Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 12 cents at $67.88 per barrel
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 5 cents at $63.13 per barrel
New York – Dow: UP 1.0 percent at 24,505.22 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,178.67 (open)