Asian shares soften as investors look to G20 summit

Shanghai, China Updated: Nov 30, 2018, 10:40 AM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Mixed signals from Washington about the prospects for a rapprochement with China on trade have led many investors to sit on the sidelines.

Share markets ticked slightly lower in early Asian trade on Friday as investors await a closely watched meeting between the Chinese and US presidents in Argentina this weekend for signs of a trade war detente.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.1 per cent. In Japan, the Nikkei was up 0.2 per cent.

The mostly muted market moves followed a mixed day on Wall Street, where stocks swung between losses and gains to ultimately end lower, amid conflicting signals on the outlook for trade talks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.11 per cent, to 25,338.84, the S&P 500 lost 0.22 per cent to 2,737.8 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.25 per cent to 7,273.08 at Thursday's close.

US stock market futures pointed to more weakness on Friday, with S&P e-mini futures ticking down 0.14 per cent to 2,740.5.

Investors are waiting for a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump, at which the leaders are expected to discuss the countries' bruising trade war.

Adding to apprehension ahead of the weekend meeting were comments from a US official, who said White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who has advocated a tougher trade stance with China, would attend.

Mixed signals from Washington about the prospects for a rapprochement with China on trade have led many investors to sit on the sidelines.

"Rather than jump at headlines, the market has taken a laid-back approach and prices are treading water until we see the outcome," analysts at National Australia Bank said in a morning note.

Defying the subdued mood, Australian shares were 1.1 per cent weaker, dragged lower by maker Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd , which fell 12.1 per cent on a weak outlook for 2019.

"They billed it as another transformational year, which fund managers think means profit growth is not going to be that good," said William O'Loughlin, investment analyst at Rivkin Securities in Sydney.

Global investors also remain hesitant to shift positions significantly as they seek clarity on Federal Reserve policy direction. 

Minutes of the latest Fed policy meeting showed that almost all officials agreed another interest rate increase was "likely to be warranted fairly soon," but opened debate on when to pause further hikes and how to relay those plans to the public.

The minutes follow comments from Federal Chairman Jerome Powell earlier this week that some took as indicating a dovish shift.

The yield on two-year US Treasury notes , seen as sensitive to expectations of higher Fed fund rates, was at 2.8066 per cent on Friday, down from a US close of 2.813 per cent.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes yielded 3.0261 per cent, compared with a US close of 3.035 per cent on Thursday. 

The dollar dropped 0.08 per cent against the yen to 113.38 , while the euro was flat at $1.1391.

In commodities markets, US crude prices retreated after rising on news that Russia is increasingly convinced it needs to reduce oil output along with the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC and its allies are meeting in Vienna on Dec. 6-7.

US crude dipped 0.1 per cent at $51.41 a barrel. 

Spot gold rose 0.06 per cent to $1,224.38 per ounce.

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