Shares stumble as China-US row over Hong Kong clouds trade deal outlook

Reuters Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan Nov 21, 2019, 10.44 AM(IST)

FILE PHOTO: A man looks at an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan Photograph:( Reuters )

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Similarly in the currency market, the yuan hit three-week lows, trading as low as 7.0450 to the dollar in onshore trade

Global shares slid on Thursday as a fresh row between Washington and Beijing over US bills on Hong Kong could complicate their trade negotiation and delay a "phase one" deal that investors had initially hoped to be inked by now.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.2 per cent, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng shedding 2 per cent while Japan's Nikkei dropped 1.6 per cent. Chinese mainland shares dropped 0.6 per cent.

US futures dropped 0.5 per cent in Asian trade, a day after MSCI's broadest gauge of world stocks fell 0.4 per cent, the biggest fall since early October. On Wall Street, all three major indexes fell, with the losing 0.38 per cent.

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed two bills intended to support protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights.

The legislation, which has angered Beijing, has been sent to the White House for President Donald Trump's approval. A person familiar with the matter said Trump was expected to sign it.

"China will surely take this as interference into its domestic affairs and is likely to think it will no longer need to make concessions on trade," said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

The move came as trade experts and people close to the White House said completion of a "phase one" US-China trade deal could slide into next year, as Beijing presses for more extensive tariff rollbacks, and the Trump administration counters with heightened demands of its own.

Trump said on Oct. 11 that the deal could take as long as five weeks, and investors had initially expected an agreement by mid-November.

Asked Wednesday about the status of the China deal, Trump told reporters in Texas: "I don't think they're stepping up to the level that I want."

Trade jitters sent the 10-year US Treasuries to yield down to 1.707 per cent, near its lowest levels in three weeks and down more than 25 basis points from a Nov. 7 peak of 1.973 per cent, a three-month high.

Similarly in the currency market, the yuan hit three-week lows, trading as low as 7.0450 to the dollar in onshore trade.

The dollar slipped 0.3 per cent against the yen to 108.31, compared to this week's high of 109.07 touched on Monday, while safe-haven gold edged up 0.26 per cent to $1,474.9 per ounce.

The euro was little changed at $1.1075 

Tomoo Kinoshita, chief economist at Invesco Asset Management in Tokyo, said the market is unlikely to completely give up hopes on the trade deal.

"There have always been some uncertainties in trade talks but that won't erase positive effects from signs of bottoming out in the global manufacturing sector," he said.

The minutes from the Federal Reserve's previous policy meeting published on Wednesday offered little guidance on what would cause policymakers to change their minds on the outlook after an increasingly divided Fed decided to hit pause in its easing cycle.

Oil prices also dipped, paring some of their 2 per cent gains made on Wednesday after a better-than-expected US crude inventories report and as Russia said it would continue its cooperation with OPEC to keep the market balanced.

Global benchmark Brent futures dropped 0.4 per cent to $62.16. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 0.39 per cent at $56.79 per barrel in early Thursday trade.