Asian shares extend losses as U.S.-China trade war escalates
Asian shares deepened losses on Tuesday amid a fresh deterioration in the Sino-U.S. tariff war, although comments from U.S. President Donald Trump that he expected trade negotiations to be successful helped stabilize sentiment.
China on Monday announced it would impose higher tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods following Washington’s decision last week to hike its own levies on $200 billion in Chinese imports.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.9% in mid-morning trade, after earlier touching its lowest level since Jan. 30.
Providing some support for Asian markets were comments from Trump late Monday that trade talks with China “are going to be very successful”. That helped lift U.S. stock futures 0.5%, through sentiment remained fragile.
Kerry Craig, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management said that the global sell-off could continue.
“Politicians may be willing to focus less on the market impact until things get more severe, making it doubtful there will be an early resolution to the current breakdown in negotiations simply based on market moves,” he said.
“Furthermore, as there isn’t a clear schedule for meetings between Chinese and U.S. negotiators, markets are likely to be more volatile.”
Broader Asian markets were dragged lower by sagging Chinese shares, with the MSCI China index dropping 1.3%. But China’s blue-chip CSI300 index turned higher in volatile trade, gaining 0.3%.
Australian shares lost 1.1% while Japan’s Nikkei stock index slid 0.7%.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office on Monday said it planned to hold a public hearing next month on the possibility of imposing duties of up to 25% on a further $300 billion worth of imports from China.
The tariff escalation has rattled global markets, even as Trump said he would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month.
On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.38% to 25,324.99, the S&P 500 lost 2.41% to 2,811.87 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.41% to 7,647.02.
As investors flocked to safe-haven assets, U.S. Treasury yields remained near six-week lows early on Tuesday, though they moved higher following Trump’s comments. Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes last yielded 2.4174% compared with a U.S. close of 2.405% on Monday.
The two-year yield, which rises with traders’ expectations of higher Fed fund rates, ticked up to 2.1986% from a U.S. close of 2.193%. But data from CME Group continued to show a more than 70 percent chance of the Fed cutting rates by the end of 2019.
After an earlier inversion, U.S. 10-year yields moved higher than those on three-month Treasury bills. A sustained inversion of this part of the yield curve has preceded every U.S. recession in the past 50 years.
On Monday, some traders were concerned that China, the largest foreign U.S. creditor, could dump Treasuries to counter the Trump administration’s hardening trade stance. But most analysts downplayed such a possibility.
“If China did start to (sell Treasuries) it will galvanize both side of politics in the U.S. against China and the Fed would be sent into the market to buy bonds,” Greg McKenna, strategist at McKenna Macro said in a note to clients.
“That would expand its balance sheet but it would allow it to neutralize China’s efforts to disturb US financial markets. So I doubt they’ll try to sell Treasuries.”
After earlier falling against the yen, the dollar strengthened 0.25% against the Japanese currency to 109.57.
The single currency was up about 0.1% on the day at $1.1231, while the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was slightly higher at 97.352.
Worries over an escalating trade war had hit commodity markets, but improving sentiment sent U.S. crude 0.1% higher to $61.11 a barrel. Brent crude was steady at $70.25 per barrel.
Gold gave up gains after earlier rising amid broader market jitters. Spot gold was down 0.1% at $1,298.63 per ounce. Bitcoin gained 1.7% to $7,945.49.