Asia shares stricken by trade tension, dollar holds gains
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares slipped on Thursday as hopes waned for real progress in Sino-US trade talks, while the US dollar consolidated recent bumper gains after the Federal Reserve reaffirmed the outlook for more rate hikes.
Souring the mood were reports the Trump administration is considering executive action to restrict some Chinese companies’ ability to sell telecoms equipment in the United States.
Talks between US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He are due to kick off later on Thursday.
However, a breakthrough was viewed as highly unlikely, especially as the US embassy said their delegation would leave as early as Friday evening.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5 percent, while South Korean stocks eased 0.4 percent.
Chinese blue chips lost 0.1 percent to be not far from an eight-month low hit in April. Japan’s Nikkei was closed for a holiday, while E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 barely budged.
Wall Street had wobbled on Wednesday as the threat of US restrictions on Chinese telecom companies fueled investor concerns about worsening trade relations.
The Dow ended down 0.72 percent. The S&P 500 also lost 0.72 percent and the Nasdaq 0.42 percent.
The Fed policy meeting ended with no change, as expected, while the central bank expressed confidence a recent rise in inflation to near target would be sustained, leaving it on track to raise borrowing costs in June.
“The statement carried only modest changes in wording, but they were meaningful nonetheless, highlighting that the Fed is optimistic on the outlook and intent on continuing to raise rates at a gradual pace,” said Westpac analyst Elliot Clarke.
Yet the Fed also emphasized the inflation target was “symmetric”, suggesting it was not inclined to speed up its tightening plans.
“The Fed sees little reason to be concerned with inflation marginally above its 2.0 percent target, particularly after such a long period of underperformance,” Clarke said.
Westpac, like the market, expects two more hikes this year.
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The Fed statement was not quite as hawkish as some had wagered on and caused a dip in the dollar, though sentiment remained bullish given US rates were still clearly heading higher while those in Europe and Japan lagged far behind.
The euro was last at $1.1979 having hit a 15-week trough at $1.1936 on Wednesday, uncomfortably close to the low for the year at $1.1915.
The dollar also scored a three-month peak on the yen at 110.05 overnight, before edging back to 109.66.
Against a basket of currencies, the dollar index was trading at 92.542, after reaching the highest since late December at 92.834.
In the Treasury market, yields dipped slightly as a quarterly refunding program of $73 billion came in short of expectations, reducing the pressure on prices from the torrent of supply.
Oil prices slipped on swelling US crude inventories and as investors remained cautious ahead of the May 12 deadline for the US to ratify the Iran nuclear deal.
Reuters reported President Donald Trump has all but decided to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord but exactly how he will do so remains unclear.
Brent crude futures fell 16 cents to $73.20 a barrel, while US crude dropped 9 cents to $67.84.