Asian markets as investors remain buoyed by trade hopes

by AFP/ pic by AFP

HONG KONG – Asian markets mostly rose Tuesday following another record close on Wall Street as investors bet on China and the US reaching a mini trade deal despite a report saying Beijing was concerned about the chances of an agreement.

Hong Kong extended Monday’s rally with another surge but continuing protests in parts of the city – particularly a violent standoff at a university – remained a source of worry.

Regional traders were given another strong lead from Wall Street, where all three main indexes ended at new records on hopes for a good holiday shopping season with the key Black Friday sales day coming next week.

World equities have broadly been on the rise in recent weeks on optimism that the world’s top two economies will eventually hammer out a mini trade deal as part of a wider agreement.

However, there have been bumps in the road and the latest came Monday when CNBC reported that China was pessimistic about the chances of a pact because Donald Trump is not in favour of rolling back tariffs.

Trump last week denied claims by Beijing that the two sides had put in place a plan to remove levies as the talks progress.

The report again highlighted the fragile nature of the negotiations.

“Investors have little option but to keep pace with the rapid shifts on the US-China phase-one deal, attempting to make sense of the many comments – official and from press ‘sources’ – on whether a rollback was now genuinely on the table,” said Stephen Innes at AxiTrader. “Ultimately they remain hostage to these developments.”

However, he said the broad gains on Tuesday meant “it looks like (investors) are starting to take trade headlines with a barrel of salt”.

In early trade, regional markets swung in and out of positive territory.

Shanghai jumped 0.9 percent, Sydney piled on 0.7 percent and Taipei rallied 0.5 percent, while Wellington and Manila were both up 0.2 percent. Jakarta and Mumbai also enjoyed gains.

But Tokyo ended 0.5 percent lower, Singapore lost 0.6 percent and Seoul shed 0.3 percent, while Bangkok was slightly lower.

Devil in the detail

National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril said he was still betting on an agreement being reached.

“The negotiations remain ongoing (and) a phase-one deal looks more likely than not, but as usual the devil will be in the detail,” he said in a commentary. “The more tariff rollbacks we get, the better for market sentiment and global growth outlook.”

A decision by Washington to delay by another 90 days a ban of US firms from doing business with China’s Huawei provided support.

While US officials initially said the row over the tech firm – which they warn is a danger to national security – was not related to the trade row, Trump has suggested a resolution to the standoff could involve reaching some common ground concerning Huawei.

Hong Kong rose one percent, having jumped more than one percent Monday, as traders shift back into buying following last week’s losses of around five percent.

The gains come as the widespread protests that hammered the city’s transport network last week have been less disruptive over the past two days.

However, eyes were on a university campus where demonstrators have been holed up for three days, with fears of a violent crackdown by police.

On currency markets, the pound extended gains on expectations Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative party will win the upcoming general election with a healthy majority that will help him push through his Brexit deal.

The pound was also helped by selling in the dollar, which came after Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell met his arch-critic Trump to discuss monetary policy, including interest rates and foreign exchange.

Powell said he reasserted the Fed’s independence during White House talks but the president, who has for years berated the bank’s rate policy, tweeted that he had protested about the “fact that our Fed Rate is set too high relative to the interest rates of other competitor countries”.

Key figures around 0720 GMT

  • Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 23,292.65 (close)
  • Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.3 percent at 27,016.72
  • Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.9 percent at 2,933.99 (close)
  • Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2962 from $1.2952 at 2150 GMT
  • Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.45 pence from 85.48 pence
  • Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1078 from $1.1072
  • Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.61 yen from 108.68 yen
  • West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 21 cents at $56.84 per barrel
  • Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 10 cents at $62.34 per barrel
  • New York – Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 28,036.22 (close)
  • London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,307.70 (close)