Asian stocks were mostly lower on Thursday as the U.S. and China moved closer to imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods, sounding a call of caution in the markets.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan‘s benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.9 percent to 22,296.35 and the Kospi in South Korea dropped 0.5 percent to 2,275.89. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent to 26,828.82. The trade spat is one reason the Hong Kong index has dropped 18 percent since its peak in late January. The Shanghai Composite index was 0.2 percent higher at 2,697.76. Australia‘s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 percent to 6,136.70.
WALL STREET: On Thursday, U.S. technology companies suffered sharp losses for the second day in a row and emerging markets slid on trade fears. The S&P 500 index dropped 0.4 percent to 2,878.05. The Nasdaq composite, which has a high concentration of technology companies, dipped 0.9 percent to 7,922.73. The index has lost 2.3 percent this week. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks was 0.8 percent lower at 1,714.47. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.1 percent to 25,995.87, as industrial companies and high-dividend stocks rose.
US-CHINA TENSIONS: The Trump administration may impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods, after a public comment period ended Thursday. The imports are equal to nearly 40 percent of all the goods China sold the United States last year. Doing so would escalate a confrontation between the world’s two biggest economies and likely squeeze U.S. companies that import everything from handbags to bicycle tires. China has said that it is ready to retaliate with “necessary countermeasures” if President Donald Trump goes ahead with the tariff hike. Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said Thursday that the country is confident it can maintain “steady and healthy” economic growth. It has announced a $60 billion list of American products targeted for retaliation. The Chinese government has said it would help local and even foreign businesses in the country mitigate the effects of the trade dispute.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “The market is risk-off and pricing in the effects of new tariffs. It’s a done deal as far as investors are concerned,” said Francis Tan, investment strategist at UOB Private Bank. “I don’t think that China will retaliate with a full-fletched devaluation of the yuan. They will turn to other non-tariff measures,” he added.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 9 cents to $67.86 a barrel. The contract dropped 1.4 percent to settle at $67.77 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 1 cent to $76.49 a barrel. It lost 1 percent to $76.50 a barrel in London on Thursday.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 110.67 yen from 110.83 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1637 from $1.1625.