Asian shares retreat from highs on doubts over Trump tax plan

A man looks at an electric quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo, on April 12, 2017.
A man looks at an electric quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo, on April 12, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares eased from a near two-year high on Thursday (April 27) as a long-awaited US tax cut plan failed to inspire investors, though sentiment remained supported by global growth prospects and receding worries about political risks in Europe.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.4 per cent after hitting its highest level since June 2015 on Wednesday.

Japan's Nikkei dipped 0.3 per cent.

US President Donald Trump proposed slashing tax rates for businesses to 15 per cent from the current 35 percent for public corporations and 39.6 per cent for small businesses, and on overseas corporate profits returned to the country.

But the one-page plan, billed as the biggest tax cut in history by the administration, offered no specifics on how it would be paid for without increasing the deficit, which many analysts think would be difficult to achieve.

"There was virtually no new information, just as expected. He was essentially repeating his campaign promises," said Tomoaki Shishido, senior fixed income strategist at Nomura Securities.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended down 0.05 per cent, failing to cling to earlier gains made on optimistic views on corporate earnings.

Overall profits of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 11.8 per cent in the first quarter, the most since 2011, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The world's share markets have been bolstered by relief over the first round of the French presidential election and also by signs of solid global economic growth in recent months.

China's growth accelerated to the fastest pace since mid-2015 in the January-March quarter, while South Korea on Thursday also reported stronger first-quarter growth than expected, fueled by stronger global demand.

In contrast, the US economy appears to have slowed, with economists expecting the advance reading of US GDP on Friday to show its growth slowing to 1.2 per cent in the first quarter from 2.1 per cent in the preceding quarter.

Still, investors remained upbeat overall, not least because that the steady recovery in the job market over the last several years have brought down the jobless rate to its lowest level in almost a decade.

"I think upcoming US data, such as auto sales and manufacturing survey due early next week, could overshoot after unexpected weakness last month, possibly giving momentum to shares," said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief global strategist at Daiwa Securities.

The US Congress inched toward a deal to fund the government through September but was preparing to possibly extend a midnight Friday deadline in order to wrap up negotiations and avoid an imminent government shutdown.

Analysts noted, however, that any breakdown in talks and a subsequent government shutdown could raise fresh worries about Trump's ability to push his agenda down the road.

The disappointment on the tax plan prompted falls in US bond yields and the US dollar.

The 10-year US Treasuries yield slipped to 2.318 per cent from two-week high of 2.350 per cent touched earlier on Wednesday.

The euro traded at US$1.0910, having bounced back from Wednesday's low of $1.0856 and near its 4 1/2-month high of US$1.09515 touched on Wednesday.

The ECB is scheduled to hold a policy meeting on Thursday, with the focus on the potential for a scaling back of monetary stimulus in the months ahead.

 

While no changes are expected, policymakers see scope for sending a small signal in June towards reducing monetary stimulus, according to sources, another factor underpinning the single currency.

 

The US dollar slipped to 111.26 yen from near one-month high of 111.78 yen scored earlier on Wednesday.

The yen showed no reaction after the Bank of Japan kept its policy unchanged, as expected, with traders looking for more clues from Governor Haruhiko Kuroda news conference later in the day (0630 GMT).

The Canadian dollar and the Mexican peso recovered sharply from losses after Trump said he agreed not to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Earlier the two currencies were battered as the administration was readying an executive order to withdraw from the trade pact.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.5 per cent to C$1.3555 per U.S dollar after having hit a 14-month low of C$1.3648 touched earlier in the day.

Similarly, the Mexican peso jumped 1.0 per cent to 19.000 peso to the dollar, off to six-week low of 19.299 peso per dollar on Wednesday.

Oil prices dipped on concerns about globally bloated markets, though traders said that prices seemed to have found support around current levels.

Brent futures dropped to US$51.67 per barrel, down 15 cents, or 0.29 per cent, from their last close. Brent is almost 9 per cent below its April peak.