Asia stocks fell after U.S.-China trade talks end without progress

Vastavam web: Asian stocks fell on Friday after U.S.-China trade talks ended without progress and market focus shifted to a speech by the Federal Reserve chairman for fresh clues on the direction of U.S. monetary policy. U.S. and Chinese officials ended two days of talks on Thursday with no major breakthrough. At the same time, their trade war escalated with another round of duelling tariffs on $16 billion worth of each country’s goods taking effect.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.25 percent. It was still up about 1 percent on the week. Australian stocks rose 0.15 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI advanced 0.2 percent. Japan’s Nikkei climbed 0.65 percent, lifted by a weaker yen. “Global risk sentiment remains somewhat jittery ahead of Fed Chair Powell’s speech with U.S.-Sino trade talks failing to yield any immediate progress,” strategists at OCBC Bank wrote.

Shares of industrial giants Caterpillar Inc and Boeing Co, bellwethers of trade confidence, were among the biggest drags on the Dow, which lost about 0.3 percent. Caterpillar shares fell 2.0 percent, and Boeing shares fell 0.7 percent. In immediate focus was the speech by the Fed Chairman Jerome Powell to be given later on Friday at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, meeting of central bankers.

“For equities, the key point will be whether Powell indicates that the Fed is poised to hike rates two more times this year. That would fall in line with expectations and not cause much of a stir,” said Soichiro Monji, senior economist at Daiwa SB Investments in Tokyo. “Any mention of recent turbulence in the emerging markets may also provide the risk asset markets with some relief.”

The Fed should raise rates further this year and probably next year as well, despite Trump’s opposition to tighter policy, Kansas City Fed President Esther George said in interviews aired on Thursday. Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan also said Trump’s comments would not affect the central bank’s decision making. The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood at 95.567, holding most of its gains after rising 0.55 percent overnight to snap a six-day losing run.

The Australian dollar received some respite after Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison won a ruling party leadership vote, paving the way for him to become the country’s next prime minister and ending a week of political uncertainty. The Aussie was up 0.4 percent at $0.7277. On Thursday, it slumped 1.4 percent as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull faced challenges to his leadership.