Asia shares pare gains as focus turns to crucial Sino-US trade talks

A man walks past a panel displaying the fresh closing peak Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong January 17, 2018. — Reuters pic
A man walks past a panel displaying the fresh closing peak Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong 17, 2018. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Jan 28 — Asian shares ticked up today though they retreated from earlier highs as relief on news of a deal to reopen the US government following a prolonged shutdown gave way to edginess before a key round of Sino-US trade talks.

European shares are expected to dip at their open, with spread-betters looking to a fall of 0.3 per cent in London’s FTSE and a 0.4 per cent drop in Frankfurt’s DAX and Paris’s CAC.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were last down 0.4 per cent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia- shares outside Japan was almost flat, pulling back after hitting its highest since Oct. 4 early in the session.

’s benchmark Shanghai Composite and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost almost 0.2 per cent while South Korea’s KOSPI was largely flat.

Japan’s Nikkei closed 0.6 per cent lower while Australian financial markets were shut for their ‘Australia Day’ holiday.

Facing mounting pressure, US President Donald Trump agreed on Friday to temporarily end a 35-day-old partial US government shutdown without getting the US$5.7 billion (RM23.4 billion) he had demanded from Congress for a border wall.

In response rallied broadly on Friday as investors were relieved to see an end to one of the longest US government shutdown in history.

The shutdown had left the markets anxious as it came at a time of heightened worries over slowing , signs of stress in corporate earnings and a still unresolved Sino-US trade war.

Attention now shifts to Vice Premier Liu He’s visit the United States on January 30-31 for the next round of trade negotiations with Washington.

The high-level talks in Washington will include discussions about China’s currency practices, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. He has criticised the yuan’s weakness in the past, but in recent days, towards the talks has lifted the yuan’s value against the dollar.

“Although coming to an agreement is still tricky, both sides have little incentive to escalate tensions,” said Tai Hui, Hong Kong-based chief market strategist for Asia Pacific at JP Morgan Asset Management, in a note.

“Markets will at least expect an extension of the truce in tariff increases beyond early March, while more difficult issues are still being worked on by both sides.”

Besides the underlying anxiety on trade, the temporary nature of the US government’s reopening — Trump has threatened to resume the shutdown on February 15 if his demands aren’t met — remained a source of concern.

“As things stand this morning, we have only 18 days left before we get another government shutdown, or a Wall. That should keep things interesting for markets,” wrote strategists at Rabobank.

May’s “plan B”, Fed meeting

In the currency market, the pound hovered not far off a three-month high of US$1.3218 set on Friday on the back of optimism that Britain can avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29, but the country’s members of parliament remain far from agreeing a divorce deal and longer term prospects for sterling remained far from clear.

The immediate focus was on Tuesday, when the British parliament will debate and vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit “plan B”.

The euro was also on the front foot against the sagging dollar, which was on the defensive as the Federal Reserve convenes its first policy meeting of 2019 where it is expected to leave interest rates unchanged after raising them five times in as many quarters in December.

The attention will be on the policy outlook as the Fed has signalled a slower pace of rate increases this year with markets speculating it might pause its tightening cycle soon.

The single currency was a shade higher at US$1.1410 after gaining 0.9 per cent on Friday, paring the losses from earlier last week on dovish-sounding comments by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

Against the Japanese yen, the greenback slipped 0.2 per cent to 109.31 yen, extending mild losses at the end of last week.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes edged down to 2.740 per cent compared with its US close of 2.751 per cent on Friday.

In commodity markets, US crude oil futures were off 61 cents, or 1.1 per cent, at US$53.08 per barrel, with a rise in US rig count stopping a two-day winning run.

crude futures were last down 63 cents, or 1 per cent, at US$61.01 a barrel.

Oil prices rose towards the end of last week as political turmoil in Venezuela threatened to tighten crude supply, with the United States signalling it may impose sanctions on exports from the South American nation.

was slightly higher. Spot was traded at US$1,302.20 per ounce, hovering just below a more than seven-month high of US$1,304.40 reached earlier in the session. — Reuters

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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