Asian markets down on trade uncertainty, unrest hits Hong Kong

by AFP/ pic by BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG – Asian markets turned lower on Monday as another record close on Wall Street was overshadowed by uncertainty over the China-US trade talks, while Hong Kong was also hit by fresh protests in which at least one person was shot.

Expectations Beijing and Washington will agree a mini-pact have fuelled an equity rally for the past few weeks, and hopes were given an added boost Thursday after China said the two sides had agreed to roll back some tariffs as the negotiations advance.

But the US side sent out some confusing signals after that announcement, before US President Donald Trump denied such an agreement, leaving investors scratching their heads.

Still, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro provided a lift to sentiment, saying Trump could postpone tariffs on Chinese goods scheduled to take effect in December. The S&P 500 and Dow both ended at fresh all-time highs.

Asian investors were unable to extend the winning streak.

Tokyo ended 0.3 percent lower and Singapore shed more than one percent with Seoul, Mumbai, Taipei, Jakarta and Manila also sharply lower. Sydney and Wellington edged up.

Shanghai dropped 1.8 percent, with traders keeping tabs on China’s annual “Singles’ Day” shopping frenzy, the world’s biggest 24-hour shopping event, which acts as a gauge of the country’s consumer spending.

Protester shot

Total gross merchandise volume settled through e-commerce titan Alibaba’s payments platform Alipay hit 192 billion yuan ($27.4 billion) in the first 12 hours, the company said.

This put it on course to break last year’s record of $30.7 billion. The firm said the first $1 billion was spent in just 68 seconds.

Hong Kong sank almost three percent as the city was gripped by another wave of protests that have jammed up the transport network and led to the closure of several businesses.

At least one person was hurt after a policemen fired several shots at demonstrators, as the five-month-long unrest – which has battered the city’s image and dragged on the economy – shows no sign of letting up.

Tensions have soared in recent days following the death on Friday of a 22-year-old student who succumbed to injuries sustained from a fall in the vicinity of a police clearance operation a week earlier.

“President Trump’s speech on Tuesday at the New York Economic Club offers the perfect soapbox for (him) to make a big political splash on both the US-China trade talks and section 232 auto investigation against the EU,” said AxiTrader’s Stephen Innes.

“The president has never been known to shy away from the spotlight, so keep eyes trained on this significant event.”

On currency markets the pound edged up but struggled to recover losses suffered Friday that came in reaction to news that Moody’s had downgraded the outlook for Britain’s debt, citing mounting policy challenges as the Brexit saga rumbles along.

Key figures around 0720 GMT

  • Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 23,331.84 (close)
  • Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 2.7 percent at 26,901.28
  • Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.8 percent at 2,909.97 (close)
  • Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1029 from $1.1021 at 2140 GMT
  • Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.00 yen from 109.21 yen
  • Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2805 from $1.2784
  • Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.13 pence from 86.18
  • West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 67 cents at $56.37 per barrel
  • Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 77 cents at $61.74 per barrel
  • New York – Dow: FLAT at 27,681.24 (close)
  • London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.6 percent at 7,359.38 (close)