Asia shares inch up, cautious on Sino-US trade talks

Asia shares inch up, cautious on Sino-US trade talks

SYDNEY,. Asian share markets crept cautiously higher today as investors awaited developments on proposed Sino-US trade talks, while keeping a wary eye on the Chinese yuan and Turkish lira for any new signs of strain.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.3 per cent in early trade, with South Korea leading the way with a rise of 0.6 per cent.

Japan’s Nikkei wavered either side of flat, much as did the yen on the dollar. EMini futures for the S&P 500 edged up 0.08 per cent.

Investors had been encouraged by news China and the United States will hold lower-level trade talks this month, offering hope that they might resolve an escalating tariff war.

Reports suggested the talks in Washington would take place on August 21 and 22, just before US$16 billion (RM65.56 billion) in new US tariffs on Chinese goods take effect.

Dealers reported rumours the talks could set the stage for a summit between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November.

The US Trade Representative’s office said on Friday it doubled the length of tariff hearings on the next US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods to six days from the previously planned three due to overwhelming demand from companies to testify.

The hearings will be held August 20-24 and on August 27.

Helping the general mood was a steadying in the Turkish lira, which was holding at 5.9800 per dollar early today.

Qatar and Turkey’s central banks have signed a currency swap to provide liquidity and support for financial stability, Qatar’s central bank said yesterday.

“Sentiment toward Turkey has stabilised, but medium-term vulnerabilities remain substantial and markets continue to penalise currencies with weak fundamentals,” cautioned Barclays economist Michael Gapen.

“But we see contagion risk from Turkey as a relatively low-risk outcome. History indicates emerging market volatility is unlikely to knock the US economy, or the Fed, off course.”

Dollar off peaks

Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s August policy meeting are due on Wednesday and should show policy makers upbeat on the economy and committed to further gradual rate hikes.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and other central bankers meet at Jackson Hole from Friday to discuss the root causes of stubbornly low inflation, slow wage growth and tepid productivity gains.

The prospect of yet higher US rates had been underpinning the dollar, though the currency took a knock on Friday as risk appetite improved just a little.

The dollar index was steady at 96.129 today, having fallen almost 0.6 per cent at the end of last week.

The euro held at US$1.1435 after bouncing from a 13-month trough at US$1.1297 last week, while the dollar was idling at 110.47 yen and just above recent lows at 110.11/31.

In commodity markets, gold was flat at US$1,184.19 an ounce having suffered its largest weekly loss since May 2017. It hit a 19-month low at US$1,159.96 last week.

The upward trend in the US dollar has also pressured oil, with US crude down for a seventh consecutive week and global benchmark Brent off for a third week.

Early today, Brent was 12 cents lower at US$71.71 a barrel , while US crude eased 13 cents to US$65.78.

— Reuters