Asia shares rebound on hopes of fresh US-China trade talks

File photo showing a pedestrian walking past a stock indicator displaying numbers of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Japan, on July 6, 2018.
File photo showing a pedestrian walking past a stock indicator displaying numbers of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Japan, on July 6, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares won a reprieve on Thursday (Sept 13) as news the Trump administration has reached out to China for a new round of trade talks raised hopes a deal could be struck in the bitter tariff dispute between the world's two biggest economies.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 per cent, a day after it hit 14-month lows.

China's A-shares shot up 1.2 per cent on hopes for reduced trade tensions, but the excitement did not last long, and the index's gain was almost erased, leaving it up only 0.1 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei gained 0.9 per cent, Hong Kong stocks jumped 1.5 per cent while shares in Shanghai rose 0.1 per cent. Singapore's Straits Times Index was up 0.2 per cent.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 was up 0.04 per cent on Wednesday.

Senior US officials led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently sent an invitation to their Chinese counterparts, including Vice Premier Liu He, to hold another bilateral trade meeting.

The development comes as more than 85 US industry groups launched a coalition on Wednesday to take public its fight against President Donald Trump's trade tariffs.

Trump's tariffs have escalated far beyond what business groups once imagined as the administration prepares to activate duties on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods, hitting a broad array of internet technology products and consumer goods from handbags to bicycles to furniture.

"Public support for Trump has fallen in recent weeks, with Democrats seen likely to capture the House of Representatives. He probably needs some sort of achievements on trade ahead of the mid-term elections," said Mutsumi Kagawa, chief global strategist at Rakuten Securities in Tokyo.

"So there could be a shift in his trade policy. He will surely keep his hard line rhetoric but his administration may seek to make some deals behind the scene," he said.

However, many market players remained cautious.

"While we agree this should provide short-term relief, the road ahead can still be tricky," said Tai Hui, chief market strategist for JP Morgan Asset Management in Hong Kong, noting concessions China made earlier this year did not satisfy Trump.

"China may not be able to offer much more than that, especially if this involves adjusting its Made in China 2025 policy," he said in a note.

Still, any serious signs of easing in trade tensions should benefit shares in China and other Asian courtiers the most given they have borne the brunt of U.S. protectionist moves. The trade tensions have hammered global riskier assets over the past few months as policymakers and investors worried about the hit to the world economy.

MSCI's broad emerging markets index has fallen more than 20 per cent from its peak in January, entering bear market territory.

 
 
 

In the currency market, the US dollar eased a little on the trade talk hopes as well as on soft U.S. wholesale price data, which undermined the case for a faster pace of policy tightening by the Federal Reserve.

US producer prices unexpectedly fell in August, recording their first drop in 1-1/2 years and denting talk of accelerating inflation following Friday's strong wage data.

The euro traded at US$1.1636, extending its gain this week to 0.71 per cent. The yen weakened slightly on Thursday to 111.40 per dollar on easing trade worries.

Sterling held near a six-week high of US$1.3087 as Brexit-supporting lawmakers in British Prime Minister Theresa May's party publicly pledged support for her to stay in power.

The European Central Bank and the Bank of England hold policy meetings on Thursday, but both are widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged.

Perhaps attracting more attention is a policy meeting by the Turkish central bank, which is expected to raise interest rates to shore up its battered lira.

The lira has lost more than 40 per cent of its value against the dollar this year, hit by worries over President Tayyip Erdogan's grip on monetary policy and by a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington.

The lira crisis has spread to some other emerging market countries with weak economic fundamentals such as sizable current account deficits.

The lira traded at 6.3450 per dollar, up about 1.1 per cent on the week and well off its record low of 7.240 reached one month ago.

Oil prices fell, reversing some of the strong gains from the previous session, as economic concerns raised doubts about fuel demand growth.

Brent futures hit US$80 per barrel on Wednesday but eased in Asia to US$79.25, down 0.6 per cent on the day.