Asian markets mixed as trade hopes offset Huawei worries

Asian markets were mixed Thursday as investors weighed hopes for trade talks against Donald Trump’s ban on US firms from using foreign telecoms equipment, which has been seen as a kick against China. Investors were jolted in the morning after the president issued an executive order, citing national security grounds, that effectively bars Chinese giant Huawei from the US market, agency reports.

It was also added to a blacklist restricting US sales to the firm, which will likely ramp up tensions with Beijing as the two economic titans engage in a drawn-out trade war that threatens global growth. The Trump administration has for months tried to persuade allies not to allow China a role in building next-generation 5G mobile networks, warning that doing so would result in restrictions on sharing of information with the United States.

The announcement comes after the US last week hiked tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, to which Beijing retaliated in kind, fanning fears their trade war — which seemed all but over just weeks ago — could worsen. “Earlier, the US Commerce Department had added Huawei to a list of entities that prohibits them from acquiring US-made technology and components without a government licence,” said OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley.

“If that’s not an escalation in trade tensions, then I don’t know what is.” – Fed rate-cut talk – Regional markets retreated in early trade but some saw a turnaround as the day went on, taking on a positive lead from Wall Street and Europe, where investors cheered reports the White House was planning to delay tariffs on auto imports while seeking agreements with key trading partners.

Also Wednesday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated to senators his expectation that US officials would meet their Chinese counterparts in Beijing to continue their trade talks. Hong Kong ended flat, although ZTE — another Chinese telecoms equipment provider — shed more than six percent. Shanghai closed 0.6 percent higher while Sydney put on 0.7 percent and Singapore added 0.2 percent. Wellington and Mumbai were also up.

Tokyo was rooted in the red, however, closing 0.6 percent lower, while Seoul and Manila lost more than one percent and Taipei dropped 0.8 percent. Bangkok and Jakarta also slipped. In early trade, London and Paris each dipped 0.3 percent, while Frankfurt shed 0.4 percent. The dollar fell against most of its major peers and most higher-yielding

currencies, with speculation swirling that the Federal Reserve could cut interest rates to fend off the effects of the trade war and slowing economic growth.
Such talk comes just months after some commentators had been predicting up to three hikes this year. “Depending on how long this standoff with China lasts, that impacts growth for longer and might force the Fed’s hand,” Esty Dwek, at Natixis Investment Managers, told Bloomberg TV.

“I wouldn’t expect any big change in the short term, but the possibility of a cut much later in the year has risen.” – Key figures around 0810 GMT – Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 21,062.98 (close) Hong Kong – Hang Seng: FLAT at 28,275.07 (close) Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 2,955.71 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,274.07 Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1211 from $1.1200 at 2050 GMT Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2843 from $1.2840 Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.46 yen from 109.58 yen Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 22 cents at $62.24 per barrel Oil – Brent Crude: UP 18 cents at $71.96 per barrel New York – Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 25,648.02 (close)