Asian shares eases from six-month highs on U.S.-China trade uncertainty


TOKYO/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian stocks retreated from six-month highs on Friday on uncertainty over whether and when the United States and China will seal a deal marking a truce in their trade war that has slowed economic growth and roiled markets.

FILE PHOTO: A woman points to an electronic board showing stock prices at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan, January 4, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Global markets rallied overnight on news the two countries have agreed to roll back tariffs on each others’ goods as part of the first phase of a trade deal.

But markets ran into profit taking during Asian hours on worries the pact could still fall apart as an outside adviser to Trump said there was no specific agreement for a phased rollback of the tariffs.

Multiple sources familiar with the talks said the plan faced fierce internal opposition at the White House and from outside advisers.

MSCI’s gauge of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was off 0.2% at 536.43 after rising to 538.77, a level not seen since early May. For the week, it is so far up more than 2%.

Tokyo’s Nikkei, which earlier in the day climbed to a 13-month high, gave up some of the gains to be last up 0.05%. Chinese shares were firm with the blue-chip index up 0.4%.

“The noise coming from Washington DC was not quite so upbeat, with reports of conflicts amongst White House advisors on the merits of the plan,” said Jeffery Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“That said, despite the lack of detail and a concrete timeline for even signing an interim trade deal, progress does at least appear to be being made. As ever, the caveat here is the unpredictable nature of the White House.”

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 were down 0.2% while Dow minis ticked 0.1% lower.

Overnight on Thursday, U.S. stocks pared gains on the report of the opposition to the deal in Washington but the Dow and S&P 500 did end at all-time closing highs. The Nasdaq missed a record close by less than two-tenths of a point.

As investors wound back their buying in safe assets, the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yields jumped to 1.9730% on Thursday to a three-month peak, and last stood at 1.9138%.

In the currency market, safe-haven currencies lost some of their edge, though moves were small.

The dollar climbed to 109.22 yen, reaching a five-month high of 109.49 the previous day.

The offshore yuan traded at 6.9768 yuan per dollar, not far from a three-month high of 6.9530 per dollar in U.S. trade on Thursday. The euro was steady at $1.1051, having marked a low of $1.10355 in U.S. trade, its weakest since Oct. 16.

That helped to push up the dollar index to three-week highs of 98.236. The index last stood at 98.112.

Gold was a tad firmer at $1,468.7844 per ounce, having hit a five-week low of $1.460.7 on Thursday.

Oil prices slipped with U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude losing 22 cents to $56.93 per barrel. Brent was down 11 cents at $62.18.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Lincoln Feast

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