Asia shares worn out by trade tension, yen a safe harbour
Asian shares carved out a 14-month trough on Friday as investors feared a new salvo of Sino-US tariffs could come at any moment, while a slump in US chip stocks rippled through the tech-heavy region.
Spreadbetters pointed to a firm start for European markets with futures for Eurostoxx 50, Germany’s Dax and London’s FTSE reversing early losses to be last up 0.1-0.3pc. EMini futures for the S&P were a tad higher too.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.3pc, having earlier reached its lowest since mid-July last year.
The Nikkei shed 0.8pc, undermined by a rising yen and reports US President Donald Trump could be contemplating taking on Japan over trade.
Chinese blue chips managed a 0.5pc bounce as beaten-down health care stocks found buyers after taking a savaging in recent months amid vaccine scandals.
Emerging markets in the region were struggling to steady after a punishing week, with Indonesia and the Philippines still badly scarred by fears of capital flight following crises in Argentina and Turkey.
Nerves were set to be frayed further as the public comment period for proposed tariffs on an additional $200bn worth of Chinese imports ended at 0400 GMT. The tariffs could now go into effect at any moment, though there was no clear timetable.
China has warned of retaliation if Washington launches any new measures.
It seems unlikely the tariffs are not implemented as the US administration believes that they are winning the trade war and will be in a stronger position to negotiate if they put more pressure on China,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note.
“The tech sector was also very weak overnight, with a slide in Micron of almost 10pc and further weakness in the Chinese Internet ADRs.”
Eyes were now turned to the US payrolls report for August which is expected to show a robust rise of 191,000, in part as July was temporarily depressed by the closure of the Toys R Us chain that month.
Still, analysts at NatWest Markets cautioned that: “Despite employment indicators pointing to another strong report, it is worth noting that there is a tendency for August payrolls to initially disappoint and then be revised up noticeably later.”
Just as important will be figures on US wages where a rise above the 0.2pc forecasted would likely boost the dollar and pressure Treasury prices.
The dollar could do with the lift, having lost out to the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc. It was changing hands at 110.62 yen after falling 0.7pc on Thursday, the sharpest one-day loss in seven weeks.
Part of the decline came after a Wall Street Journal columnist reported Trump had mused about starting a trade fight with Japan.
The dollar also hit a four-month low on the franc around $0.9645. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar index nudged lower to 94.939 and off the week’s top of 95.737.
The euro was a shade higher at $1.1636, while sterling idled at $1.2939 amid ongoing uncertainty over Brexit negotiations.
In commodity markets, the dip in the dollar left gold a sliver higher at $1,200.67 an ounce.
Crude oil was slighty higher after falling more than 1pc on Thursday when US data showed gasoline inventories rose unexpectedly last week.
Brent was 4 cents higher at $76.54 a barrel, while US crude edged up 13 cents to $67.90.
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