Asian stock markets up as trade war fears ease

HONG KONG―Asian markets rose on Monday as fears about a potentially catastrophic China-US trade war were tempered by hopes the two sides will be able to hammer out an agreement.

US markets plunged on Friday after Donald Trump warned of tariffs on an additional $100 billion worth of Chinese imports, to which Beijing responded by saying it would stand firm.

The president’s announcement came weeks after his decision to tax imports of steel and aluminum, followed by planned levies on $50 billion worth of goods from China over what Washington says is theft of intellectual property and technology.

China retaliated by unveiling planned levies on $50 billion worth of major US exports.

Trump’s moves, part of his protectionist “America First” agenda, have rattled world markets, fearing a trade war between the world’s top two economies could reverse the tentative global recovery.

“Much ink has been spilt over trade wars in the last few days, and we now wait to see what the Trump administration does next,” Stephen Innes, head of forex trading for Asia Pacific at OANDA, said in a note.

There are hopes Trump’s headline-grabbing tariffs are part of a plan to take a harsh line as a bargaining tactic towards a deal with China.

And on Sunday Trump tweeted that he saw an end to the dispute, saying: “China will take down its trade barriers because it is the right thing to do.”

However top advisor Larry Kudlow, who has often suggested the tariffs might not go into effect, warned Friday the announcements were not negotiating tactics, while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House hoped to negotiate but acknowledged a trade war was a possibility.

All three main indexes on Wall Street ended more than two percent down Friday.

But US futures rose Monday and Asian markets, after fluctuating in early trade, pushed higher.

Tokyo ended 0.5 percent higher, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 1.29 percent, or 384.64 points, to close at 30,229.58.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.23 percent, or 7.18 points, to 3,138.29. The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China’s second exchange, inched up 0.01 percent, or 0.13 points, to 1,831.83.

Singapore was 0.1 percent higher, Seoul gained 0.6 percent and Wellington added 0.7 percent, while Taipei, Bangkok and Jakarta also rose.

“Focus this week will remain the trade issues between the US and China... as some people began to have an optimistic view on the outcome of the issue. It’s getting harder to predict what will come next,” SBI Securities said in a commentary.

Investors will be keeping a close eye on comments Tuesday by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Boao Forum—dubbed the Asian Davos—to see if he comments on the brewing row.

Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader asked: “Will Xi crank the handle on rhetoric or will he strike a more conciliatory tone?”

A report Friday showed the US created far fewer jobs than expected in March, tempering expectations of sharp interest rate rises by the Federal Reserve. AFP

Topics: Asian markets , China-US trade war , US markets , Donald Trump , Chinese imports , America First
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