Bulls And Bears

Escalating trade war to set tone for Asia stocks

A Chevrolet dealership in Chongqing city in south-west China. United States President Donald Trump has ordered US companies to stop doing business in China and raised tariffs by 5 per cent on Chinese imports. Meanwhile, China has imposed additional t
A Chevrolet dealership in Chongqing city in south-west China. United States President Donald Trump has ordered US companies to stop doing business in China and raised tariffs by 5 per cent on Chinese imports. Meanwhile, China has imposed additional tariffs on US$75 billion (S$104 billion) of American goods.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Traders will be focused on US-China tariff hikes, release of key regional economic data

The exchange of trade blows between China and the US at the weekend will undoubtedly set the tone for Asian trading in the last week of August, a month already shaping up as one to forget for equities.

As Oanda's Asia-Pacific senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley noted, attention had been squarely on United States Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell's speech at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at last Friday's session on Asia.

But in a move probably timed for impact, China imposed additional tariffs on US$75 billion (S$104 billion) worth of American goods, including soya beans, cars and oil, prior to Friday's Fed session.

Beijing's response may have come a fortnight after Washington first indicated tariffs be placed on essentially all remaining Chinese imports, but US President Donald Trump jabbed back quickly.

Mr Trump also ordered US companies to stop doing business in China and raised tariffs by 5 per cent on Chinese imports.

Unsurprisingly, the moves hit risk sentiment, sending Wall Street sharply lower last Friday.

COSTLY LESSON

If Mr Donald Trump's playbook is to inflict pain ahead of negotiations so as to extract complaisance, it will be a costly lesson that China is not about to play ball.

MR VISHNU VARATHAN, Mizuho Bank's head of economics and strategy for the Asia and Oceania treasury, on the escalating trade war.

The Dow sank more than 600 points, or 2.4 per cent, to 25,628.90, with the index clocking in a fourth straight week of losses. The broad-based S&P 500 fell 2.6 per cent to 2,847.11, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 3 per cent to 7,751.77.

Mr Vishnu Varathan, Mizuho Bank's head of economics and strategy for the Asia and Oceania treasury, said: "If Mr Trump's playbook is to inflict pain ahead of negotiations so as to extract complaisance, it will be a costly lesson that China is not about to play ball.

"The fact is, the White Paper in May suggests that Beijing would much rather grit its teeth, bear with the pain, but dig its heels in. And what this means is that prospects for a US-China deal on the horizon have dwindled dramatically."

Last Friday, Singapore's Straits Times Index ended the week at 3,110.35, down 17.39 points or 0.6 per cent. The past week saw the benchmark index lose 4.68 points, or 0.15 per cent, from Aug 16's close of 3,115.03.

A trader said: "With trade tensions heating up, markets in Asia and Singapore are likely to take a further hit come Monday morning."

Singapore's industrial production data will be released today and the usual end-of-the-month bank lending and monetary aggregates data is due on Friday.

UOB senior economist Alvin Liew noted that July's industrial production figures are widely expected to resume its month-on-month slide, but the bank is more bearish than street estimates.

According to a Bloomberg poll, factory output is expected to clock in at a 1.7 per cent month-on-month decline and drop 5.8 per cent year on year. This compares with UOB's expectation of steeper declines of 2.8 per cent month on month and 8.2 per cent year on year.

Of the key economic data releases for the rest of the Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong - blighted by 11 weeks of protests which have continued to garner headlines - will reveal trade data for July today.

Meanwhile, industrial profits for the Chinese economy in July will be out tomorrow.

Amid the backdrop of slowing global growth, economic growth figures for the second quarter in India are due on Friday, with expectations that growth will clock in at 5.7 per cent.

South Korea's central bank has a monetary policy meeting on Friday. The expectation is that the Bank of Korea is unlikely to change its 1.5 per cent policy rate after a 25 basis point cut at its previous meeting last month, ING economists wrote.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2019, with the headline 'Escalating trade war to set tone for Asia stocks'. Print Edition | Subscribe