Trade war fears weigh on Asia stocks

Stocks inch up despite trade war worries

Hong Kong (AFP) – Fears of a trade war between the world’s top two economies weighed on Asian stocks Wednesday, with several major markets closing in the red despite a recovery on Wall Street.

Markets in Japan and Australia clung on to marginal gains but China, Hong Kong and South Korea dipped into the red, delivering a mixed picture across the region.

Tokyo opened strongly but stocks sank throughout the trading day, finishing only 0.13 percent up at 21,319.55. The broader Topix index closed with similar gains.

The Japanese market was helped by an earlier bounce in US stocks and a weaker yen which helps exporters, said Hikaru Sato, senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities.

The dollar was trading at 106.56 yen against 106.60 yen in New York on Tuesday, rising from levels below 106 seen a day earlier.

“But buying remained limited as investors are still concerned about several uncertain elements, including a US-led trade war,” Sato told AFP.

The United States has published a list of Chinese imports worth around $50 billion that could be targeted by tariffs — a significant escalation in the confrontation with Beijing.

China responded sharply, saying it was ready to retaliate against what it described as a “unilateralistic and protectionist” move that serves neither country’s interests.

The prospect of a trade war between the US and China “continues to cast a dark shadow over global capital markets”, warned Stephen Innes, an analyst at OANDA.

China’s main market, the Shanghai Composite Index, closed down 0.15 percent to end the day at 3,131.84 points, erasing some healthy gains earlier in the session.

Leading the decliners in Asia was the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong, which was off 1.48 percent at 29,732.67 points in the afternoon.

The Asia trading day followed a volatile session on Wall Street, where US stocks finished Tuesday with a strong rally.

The Dow Jones Index closed up 1.7 percent and the broad-based S&P 500 was up 1.3 percent.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq also finished in the black, up 1.0 percent, mainly on bargain-hunting after suffering a pummelling in recent days.

Large technology companies that have been slumping all enjoyed gains, including Facebook, Google parent Alphabet and Intel.

Amazon also pushed 1.5 percent higher as investors welcomed headlines which suggested President Donald Trump did not plan to follow up a series of irate tweets with concrete action against the company.

Meanwhile, Europe markets were directionless at the open. The FTSE in London and the Paris CAC 40 opened up 0.1 percent while the Frankfurt DAX was flat.

– Key figures around 0730 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 21,319.55 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.5 percent at 29,732.67 

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,131.84 

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.56 yen from 106.60 at 0230 GMT 

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2264 from $1.2275 at 0230 GMT 

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4064 from $1.4076 at 0230 GMT  

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 1 cent at $67.89 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 1 cent at $63.31 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 1.7 percent at 24,033.36 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,034.93 points (open)