Asian shares edge up, but renewed trade jitters cap gains


TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares on Friday caught the tail of a Wall Street rally aided by China’s solid export figures and a stabilization in the yuan, but fresh concerns about Sino-U.S. trade ties capped the region’s gains.

FILE PHOTO: Passers-by walk past an electronic board showing Japan’s Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Weighing on risk appetite was a report from Bloomberg that Washington is delaying a decision about licenses for U.S. firms to restart trade with Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL].

That sent U.S. stock futures down as much as 0.6% in early Asian trade. They were last 0.4% lower on the day.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.2% higher but on track to lose 2.3% for the week.

Japan’s Nikkei average gained 0.6%, while Australian stocks added 0.2% and South Korean shares climbed 1.1%.

Chinese stocks saw early gains evaporate. The benchmark Shanghai Composite and the blue-chip CSI300 were down 0.4% and 0.6%, respectively, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.2%.

On Wall Street on Thursday, the S&P 500 surged 1.9% – its largest one-day gain in about two months- while the Dow and the Nasdaq also advanced well more than 1%. [.N]

However, optimism was dented by the Bloomberg report, which added to concerns that deterioration in U.S.-China relations could put additional strain on an already fragile global economy.

“The news about Huawei triggered the rise in the yen,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior foreign exchange strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo. “This is a reminder that the U.S.-China trade dispute remains a risk, and this risk is not receding.”

The yen strengthened as much as 0.4% against the dollar to 105.70 yen on worries triggered by the report on Huawei.

U.S. data pointed to a robust labor market as the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, allaying some worries about a recession and helping Treasury yields rise.

But others remained anxious on the outlook.

“About a month ago, I had a feeling the global economy could pick up later this year but now downside risks are deepening, raising the chance of a recession,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yield closed 2.4 basis points higher at 1.715% after hitting 1.595% on Wednesday, which was its lowest level since October 2016. It last quoted at 1.700%.

The offshore yuan was stable versus the dollar even after China’s central bank set the yuan’s daily midpoint at 7.0136 per dollar, its weakest level since April 2, 2008.

The currency fetched 7.0500 per dollar in onshore trade, while offshore yuan traded at 7.0758, steady on the day.

But traders continued to pay close attention to U.S.-China trade headlines.

“The U.S.-China trade war is very serious. My hope is that the United States and China can find enough to agree on so that they can contain the push-and-shove that occurs when the emerging power meets the dominant power. The alternative is not pleasant,” said veteran investor Dan Fuss, vice chairman of Loomis Sayles.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback versus a basket of six major currencies, was little changed at 97.552 but on track for its biggest weekly decline since late June.

Sterling briefly hit its two-year low against the euro overnight after the Financial Times reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was preparing to hold an election in the days after the deadline for Britain to leave the European Union on Oct. 31.

The pound was last quoted at 92.24 pence per euro, down 0.1% on the day, and was traded against the dollar at $1.2135, steady on the day.

In commodity markets, oil prices on Friday gave up some the previous day’s stellar gains, but expectations of more production cuts by OPEC were expected the underpin prices. [O/R]

Brent crude retreated 0.3% to $57.19 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude eased 0.2% to $52.43.

Spot gold held near a more than six-year peak touched Wednesday, with rising 0.5% to $1,507.40 an ounce as investors sought the safety of the precious metal.

Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano & Stanley White; Editing by Sam Holmes & Richard Borsuk

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