Asian shares on slippery slope as Trump ups ante in trade war

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10 Sep, 2018 8:47 am

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares started the week in the red on Monday, faltering for the eighth straight day while the dollar held on to recent gains as US President Donald Trump raised the stakes in the heated trade dispute with China.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was last down 0.7 percent, piling on losses from last week when it dropped 3.5 percent for its worst weekly showing since mid-March.

Japan’s Nikkei opened lower but quickly pared losses after revised second quarter gross domestic product data showed the world’s third-biggest economy grew at its fastest pace since 2016.

Chinese shares were also down with the blue-chip index off 1 percent while Shanghai’s SSE Composite stumbled 0.7 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.9 percent.

On Friday, Wall Street stocks ended lower while world share indexes registered their biggest weekly declines in almost six months after Trump threatened tariffs on a further $267 billion worth of Chinese imports, on top of earlier promises to levy duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Beijing has warned of retaliation if Washington launches any new measures.

“The overall sense is that the United States will continue to escalate the pressure until China submits to US demands which does not seem likely any time soon,” JPMorgan said in a note.

“Overall, the impact of tariffs and high levels of uncertainty will both continue to weigh on markets into the end of the year.”

Adding to the tensions, data out Friday showed China’s trade surplus with the United States widened to a record in August, an outcome that could further inflame Sino-US trade tensions.

Trump, who is challenging China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union on trade issues, has now expressed displeasure about his country’s large trade deficit with Japan.

Also weighing on global shares was the prospect of faster rate rises by the Federal Reserve after data on Friday showed US jobs growth accelerated in August and wages notched their largest annual increase in more than nine years.

The Fed is all but certain to raise rates a third time this year in late September.

The strong employment report boosted the dollar, which held on to Friday’s gains at 95.38. The index is up 3.5 percent so far this year.

“The overall trend for the US economy remains positive,” said Lachlan McPherson, Senior Investment Consultant at Charles Schwab Australia.

“However, while the US equity bull market remains intact, there are risks in the near-term that warrant some caution,” McPherson added.

“Trade uncertainty remains a significant concern for future business investment plans. That uncertainty could result in more stock market volatility as investors worry that the Fed may move too far in its normalization campaign.”

Investors will next focus on US inflation for August due Thursday and a stronger number could once again send the dollar surging.

The Australian dollar, a proxy for emerging market growth, slipped to its lowest in 2-1/2 years. The currency fell 1.3 percent on Friday and was last at $0.7112.

The euro held at $1.1555 after two straight sessions of losses while the yen traded in a narrow range, changing hands at 110.88

In commodities, oil prices were slightly firmer after three straight days of losses with US crude futures up 30 cents at $68.05 per barrel. Brent crude futures added 39 cents to $77.22 a barrel.

Spot gold was mostly unchanged at $1,194.81.

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