TOKYO: Asian stocks fell on Friday after US-China trade talks ended without progress and market focus shifted to a speech by the Federal Reserve chairman for fresh clues on the direction of US monetary policy.
Spreadbetters expected European stocks to open mixed, with Britain’s FTSE dipping 0.15%, Germany’s DAX rising 0.1% and France’s CAC edging up 0.05%.
US and Chinese officials ended two days of talks on Thursday with no major breakthrough. At the same time, their trade war escalated with another round of duelling tariffs on US$16 billion worth of each country’s goods taking effect.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.25%. It was still up about 1% on the week.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.55% and the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.35%.
Australian stocks rose 0.155 and South Korea’s KOSPI advanced 0.25. Japan’s Nikkei climbed 0.655, lifted by a weaker yen.
“Global risk sentiment remains somewhat jittery ahead of Fed Chair Powell’s speech with US-Sino trade talks failing to yield any immediate progress,” strategists at OCBC Bank wrote.
The S&P 500 shed 0.175 overnight to pull back slightly from a record high scaled midweek, with industrial shares sagging after the United States and China imposed a fresh round of trade tariffs on each other.
Shares of industrial giants Caterpillar Inc and Boeing Co, bellwethers of trade confidence, were among the biggest drags on the Dow, which lost about 0.35. Caterpillar shares fell 2.05, and Boeing shares fell 0.75%.
In immediate focus was the speech by the Fed Chairman Jerome Powell to be given later on Friday at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, meeting of central bankers.
Where Powell stands on the pace of interest rate hikes will be scrutinised after minutes from the Fed’s most recent policy meeting indicated the central bank would tighten monetary policy soon.
“For equities, the key point will be whether Powell indicates that the Fed is poised to hike rates two more times this year. That would fall in line with expectations and not cause much of a stir,” said Soichiro Monji, senior economist at Daiwa SB Investments in Tokyo.
“Any mention of recent turbulence in the emerging markets may also provide the risk asset markets with some relief.”
US President Donald Trump reiterated his displeasure with the Fed’s rate hikes earlier this week and investors waited to see whether Powell would respond to such criticism.
The Fed should raise rates further this year and probably next year as well, despite Trump’s opposition to tighter policy, Kansas City Fed President Esther George said in interviews aired on Thursday.
Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan also said Trump’s comments would not affect the central bank’s decision making.
The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood at 95.567, holding most of its gains after rising 0.55% overnight to snap a six-day losing run.
The greenback extended its overnight surge to touch a two-week high of 111.49 yen. The euro was 0.15% higher at $1.1553 after retreating 0.5% the previous day.
The Australian dollar received some respite after Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison won a ruling party leadership vote, paving the way for him to become the country’s next prime minister and ending a week of political uncertainty.
The Aussie was up 0.4% at $0.7277. On Thursday, it slumped 1.4% as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull faced challenges to his leadership.
Onshore Chinese yuan slipped 0.2% to 6.8916 per dollar, its weakest in a week.
Oil prices edged higher. While the trade conflict between Washington and Beijing darkens the economic outlook, the supply versus demand position in oil markets remains relatively tight -especially because of the looming US sanctions against Iran.
Brent crude futures rose 0.45 percent to US$75.07 per barrel, while US crude added 0.6% to US$68.25.