Asia markets were mostly down yesterday, with investors cautious ahead of US-China talks in Shanghai this week and amid more civil unrest in Hong Kong.
Two-day discussions begin today with a Washington delegation led by White House Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
But analysts are pessimistic about a resolution to the year-long trade dispute between the world’s top two economies that has seen $360bn in tariffs imposed on bilateral trade.
“Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst best describes my view,” said Vanguard Markets managing partner Stephen Innes. “We are not overly optimistic about a positive Shanghai surprise.” Hong Kong was among the biggest downward movers on Tuesday with the Hang Seng benchmark falling 1.5% after a fresh round of violent protests over the weekend.
Pro-democracy demonstrators in the financial hub fought a second consecutive day of running battles with police on Sunday evening in a well-heeled residential district, a day after clashes at a banned rally in a town near the border with mainland China.
Real estate shares were among the biggest losers from the political uncertainty, with commercial property developer Swire and subway operator MTR both down nearly 4% an hour before the close.
The weekend protests were “factoring quite negatively into the overall risk equation”, Innes said, with traders concerned that Washington may speak in support of the demonstrators.
“If they do, it would not only throw this week’s trade discussion into disarray but could jeopardise bilateral trade negotiations going forward,” he added. The city’s American Chamber of Commerce yesterday urged officials to address grievances fuelling the protests — which have carried on for nearly two months — and “restore confidence” in the city’s reputation as an international business and financial centre.
“A clear majority of our membership surveyed over the past week said the government needs to address the underlying causes of the protests and not simply to paper over the cracks of social instability with a short-term law-and-order fix,” said AmCham president Tara Joseph.
Seoul was down 1.8% amid an ongoing trade spat with Tokyo, which restricted export of materials key to South Korean tech firms earlier this month.
The Nikkei closed down 0.2% ahead of a long slate of earnings figures this week, with Hitachi and industrial robot maker Fanuc among companies set to report later.
Shanghai finished 0.2% lower while London was 0.6 higher in opening trade.
Wall Street is preparing for a positive equity outlook with markets hitting fresh records at their close last week.
Fed officials begin a two-day monetary policy meeting today with markets pricing in expectations of a 25 basis point cut, said OANDA senior market analyst Alfonso Esparza. Any cut could lead to downward pressure on the dollar and gold prices, which could dip below $1,400, he added.
Central banks in Japan and England will also meet this week.
Oil benchmarks were slightly down yesterday after ending last week higher on strong US growth figures, and amid continuing tensions over Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker earlier this month.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed down 0.2% to 21,616.80 points; Hong Kong — Hang Seng ended down 1.5% to 27,982.55 points and Shanghai — Composite closed down 0.2% to 2,941.99 points yesterday.
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