Asia stocks bounce, safe havens retreat as Trump delays some China tariffs

Pedestrians reflected in a stock market indicator board in Tokyo, Japan, on Aug 7, 2019.
Pedestrians reflected in a stock market indicator board in Tokyo, Japan, on Aug 7, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares joined a global equities rally and safe-haven government bonds pulled back on Wednesday (Aug 14), after Washington delayed tariffs on some Chinese imports in much-needed relief for markets gripped by political and economic turmoil.

Wall Street stocks soared overnight as US President Donald Trump backed off his Sept. 1 deadline for 10 per cent tariffs on the remaining Chinese imports, delaying duties on cellphones, laptops and other consumer goods in the hopes of blunting their impact on US holiday sales.

The surge in US stocks lifted MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan by 0.4 per cent.

Australian stocks gained 0.4 per cent, South Korea's KOSPI advanced 1.2 per cent and Japan's Nikkei rose 0.8 per cent.

Yet the latest bounce hardly clawed back the sizable losses for equities over recent months, and broad market sentiment remained fragile given that the US-China trade conflict is still far from resolved. Uncertainty around political risks such as the unrest in Hong Kong also continue to keep investors on edge.

The year-long tariff dispute between the world's biggest economies has already disrupted global supply chains and slowed economic growth.

"President Trump did delay the tariffs and while this is positive for equities, the markets will remain wary of the tariffs still being implemented come December," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.

"And while the tensions in Hong Kong are not a main calibre theme for all markets, their negative impact has been multiplied as they have taken place simultaneously with developments in Argentina."

Fears of a possible return to interventionist policies, and by extension a possible debt default, jolted global markets this week after conservative Argentina President Mauricio Macri was handed a trouncing by the opposition in presidential primaries over the weekend.

In currencies, the safe-haven yen pulled back sharply amid the ebb in risk aversion. The Japanese currency is often sought in times of market turmoil and political tensions.

The yen stood at 106.450 per dollar, having lost more than 1 per cent overnight when it recoiled from a seven-month high near 105.000 brushed at the week's start.

Boosted by its surge against the yen, the dollar index versus a basket of six major currencies advanced nearly 0.5 per cent the previous day and last stood little changed at 97.778.

The euro was steady at $1.1177 after slipping 0.4 per cent against the dollar on Tuesday.

The greenback was also supported as U.S yields rose on the slight easing in US-China trade tensions, reversing some of their sharp declines seen at the start of the week.

The 10-year US Treasury note last yielded 1.691 per cent after climbing 6 basis points overnight, knocked away from a three-year low of 1.595 per cent plumbed a week ago.

Brent crude oil futures were down 0.4 per cent at $61.06 per barrel, running out of steam after soaring nearly 5 per cent the previous day.

Crude prices jumped on Tuesday as Washington's decision to delay imposing tariffs on some Chinese goods eased worries about a global economic slowdown, at least for the time being.