Asian shares fall under pressure from trade, emerging markets worries

Passersby using umbrellas struggle against a heavy rain and wind in front of an electronic stock quotation board as Typhoon Shanshan approaches Japan’s mainland in Tokyo, Japan August 8, 2018. (Reuters pic)

SHANGHAI: Asian shares fell in early trade on Tuesday, amid growing concerns over escalating international trade disputes and as emergency austerity measures in Argentina highlighted turbulence in emerging markets.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.2% after European shares ended mostly flat, though a weak British pound helped to lift London’s blue-chip FTSE almost 1%.

Japan’s Nikkei slid 0.3% and Australian shares were 0.2% lower.

US markets were closed on Monday for Labor Day.

Growing turbulence in Argentina once again focused global attention on emerging markets.

On Monday, Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced new taxes on exports and steep cuts to government spending in what he termed “emergency” measures to balance next year’s budget.

The Argentine peso closed 3.14% weaker on Monday and is expected to face further pressure in coming days.

Turkey’s central bank signalled on Monday it would take steps to combat “significant risks” to price stability, comments seen as hinting at interest rate hikes.

The lira, which has lost 40% of its value against the US dollar this year, was 0.3% weaker at 6.6400 to the dollar.

Underscoring global uncertainty, manufacturing surveys released on Monday showed mounting stress on factories across Europe and Asia as the outlook for global trade dims.

US President Donald Trump gave fresh impetus to trade worries at the weekend when he said there was no need to keep Canada in the North American Free Trade Agreement and warned Congress not to meddle with the trade talks.

Trump was also reported to have said he is ready to impose tariffs on an additional US$200 billion worth of imports from China as soon as a public comment period on the plan ends on Thursday.

“President Trump’s war of words against Canada amid negotiations of the NAFTA trade agreement raised concerns that his stance against other countries such as China would remain combative. This wasn’t helped by data showing some weakness in China’s export-focused manufacturing sector,” ANZ analysts said in a note on Tuesday.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 2.8585 percent versus its US close of 2.853% on Friday.

The two-year yield, which rises with traders’ expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 2.633% compared with a US close of 2.629% last week.

The dollar dropped 0.13% against the yen to 110.93, while the euro was down 0.1% on the day at $1.1611.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was flat at 95.144.

US crude ticked up 0.33% at US$70.03 a barrel. Brent crude fell to US$78.06 per barrel.

Gold was slightly higher, with spot gold traded at US$1,201.19 per ounce.