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Asian shares at 4-month low on deepening US-China trade war

Washington last week effectively banned US firms from doing business with Huawei

May 24, 2019, 08.31 AM IST
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Other major currencies were relatively calm, with the safe-haven yen still supported but not aggressively so.
Tokyo: Asian shares hobbled near four-month lows on Friday and crude oil plunged on worries the US-China trade spat was developing into a more entrenched strategic dispute between the world's two largest economies, pushing investors to safe-haven assets.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan stood flat, hovering near its fresh four-month low marked on Thursday, and was on track for a third straight weekly loss, down 0.9 per cent so far on the week.

Japan's Nikkei average dropped 0.6 per cent.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 1.2 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.6 per cent, as traders dumped cyclical names on fears that the escalating US-China trade war would stymie global economic growth.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Washington's complaints against Huawei Technologies might be resolved within the framework of a US-China trade deal, while at the same time calling the Chinese telecommunications giant "very dangerous."

Washington last week effectively banned US firms from doing business with Huawei, the world's largest telecoms network gear maker, citing national security concerns.

As flight-to-safety plays dominated the global markets, the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note yield hit 2.292 per cent, the lowest level since mid-October, 2017, with the key parts of the yield curve inverted.

Chotaro Morita, chief fixed income strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities said big falls in US manufacturing survey appear to reflect expectations of a breakdown in the U.S-China trade talks.

"In the last couple of years, the PMI has had a very small gap with hard data, such as industrial output. So if that holds true this time, we could see factory production plunging into negative levels (compared to a year ago)."

"Since the global financial crisis, US output has fallen only once: from 2015 to early 2016 when the shale industry was badly hit. Markets could start to fret over a global slowdown as they have done late last year."

The greenback at one point hit its highest level in two years against a basket of six major currencies and the euro slumped to levels last seen in May 2017 as a recovery in euro zone business activity was weaker than expected.

The dollar hit a high of 98.371 against a basket of six major currencies overnight. The index was last quoted at 97.880, unchanged on the day. The euro fetched $1.1182.

Sterling weakened again on Thursday as pressure mounted on British Prime Minister Theresa May to name a date for her departure after backlash over her last-ditch plans for Britain's exit from the European Union.

It was last traded at $1.2662, little changed on the day. The pound suffered its 14th consecutive day of losses against the euro on Thursday, its longest losing streak on record. It stood at 0.8830 pound to the euro.

Other major currencies were relatively calm, with the safe-haven yen still supported but not aggressively so.

The dollar was holding at 109.68 yen, almost flat on the day.

In commodity markets, oil prices plunged on Thursday, with WTI crude losing nearly 6 per cent as trade tensions dampened the demand outlook, putting the crude benchmarks on course for their biggest daily and weekly falls in six months.

In early Asian trade, US crude rebounded 0.6 per cent to $58.25 a barrel, after Thursday's 5.7 per cent fall that too it to the lowest in two months. Brent crude futures also bounced back 0.4 per cent to $68.05 per barrel, after falling 4.6 per cent in the previous session.

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