Asia shares hit 14-month lows, yen advances on trade jitters

The Nikkei fell 0.9 per cent, undermined by a rising yen and reports US President Donald Trump could be contemplating taking on Japan over trade.

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Asian shares slipped to a 14-month trough on Friday (Sept 7) as investors feared a new round of US-China tariffs could come at any moment, while a slump in US chip stocks rippled through the tech sector.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.34 per cent to reach its lowest since mid-July last year.

The Nikkei fell 0.9 per cent, undermined by a rising yen and reports US President Donald Trump could be contemplating taking on Japan over trade.

Nerves were already frayed as the public comment period for proposed tariffs on an additional US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports ends at 0400 GMT, and the tariffs could go into effect shortly afterward.

China has warned of retaliation if Washington implements any new measures.

"It seems unlikely the tariffs are not implemented as the U.S. 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 10 per cent and further weakness in the Chinese Internet ADRs."

Wall Street saw sharp losses in chipmakers and concerns about increased regulation of social media companies.

The S&P 500 lost 0.37 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.91 percent, while the Dow eked out a 0.08 per cent gain.


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 wages where a rise above the 0.2 per cent forecasted would likely boost the dollar and pressure Treasury prices.

The US dollar could do with the lift having lost out to the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc overnight. It was changing hands at 110.43 yen after shedding 0.7 per cent on Thursday, the sharpest one-day loss in seven weeks.

Part of the losses 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 at US$0.9646 . Against a basket of currencies, the dollar index was down at 95.021 and off the week's top of 95.737.

The euro was holding steady at US$1.1619, while sterling idled at US$1.2921 amid ongoing uncertainty over Brexit negotiations.

In commodity markets, the dip in the dollar left gold a whisker higher at US$1,201.21 an ounce.

Crude oil steadied after falling more than 1 per cent on Thursday after US data showed gasoline inventories rose unexpectedly last week.

Brent was 5 cents firmer at US$76.55 a barrel, while US crude edged up 9 cents to US$67.86.

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