Stocks in Asia mixed amid geopolitical concerns and trade uncertainty - Southern Business Review


Facebook Follow

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Stocks in Asia mixed amid geopolitical concerns and trade uncertainty

Markets in Asia were mixed in Thursday morning trade amid a spate of geopolitical concerns ranging from escalating tensions between India and Pakistan to U.S.-China trade uncertainty. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Thursday for a second day of nuclear talks in Vietnam.

Mainland Chinese stocks were slightly higher in early trade, with the Shanghai composite near flat, while the Shenzhen component advanced 0.416 percent. The Shenzhen composite rose 0.436 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index up 0.2 percent as shares of China Construction Bank slipped about 0.57 percent.

The moves came after China's factory activity declined for the third consecutive month in February. The official Purchasing Manager's Index slipped to 49.2 in February, data showed on Thursday — its weakest since February 2016. The 50-point index mark separates expansion from contraction on a monthly basis.

Japan's Nikkei 225 declined 0.45 percent while the Topix shed 0.46 percent in morning trade, as shares of robot maker Fanuc fell around 2.5 percent.

In South Korea, the Kospi slipped 0.14 percent as industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics and chipmaker SK Hynix saw their stock drop 1.18 percent and 3.53 percent, respectively, following a slump in semiconductor stocks overnight stateside which saw the VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH) declining around 1 percent.

Australia's ASX 200 recovered from earlier losses to see rise slightly as the sectors traded mixed.

Taiwan's stock markets are closed on Thursday for a holiday.

Overnight on Wall Street, stocks stateside touched their lows in the Wednesday session as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer hinted that a trade deal was not yet certain, saying that any agreement would need to be more than just purchases by China.

"It's not clear yet that (Trump's) got a win on that China trade deal," Richard Martin, managing director at IMA Asia, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday, adding that the U.S. president was the "only one actually who's saying he's got a win" in his tweets.

"We've yet to see what the Chinese are gonna say and no one has a clue what are in the documents that are being put together," Martin said.

Trade tensions between the U.S. and China eased this week after President Donald Trump pushed back a closely-watched deadline on adding additional tariffs on Chinese goods.

On the geopolitical front, investors are watching for developments in the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, after both sides carried out airstrikes against each other.

"India-Pakistan relationships took a precarious turn yesterday over border skirmishes involving both countries' army and air forces. Questions arise over whether such instances can leave lasting impact on markets," said DBS Group Research in a note. "Developments are fluid and uncertain at this junction."

Past instances, however, have showed that the majority of such tensions between the two countries had a "short-lived and localised" impact, they said.

Meanwhile in Vietnam, Trump and Kim are expected to participate in a "joint agreement signing ceremony" on Thursday, according to the White House. The two leaders met for a second day Thursday to continue their nuclear talks in Hanoi.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.132 after touching lows below 95.9 yesterday.

The Japanese yen, often viewed as a safe-haven currency, traded at 110.88 against the dollar after weakening from levels below 110.4 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7133 after slipping from the $0.719 handle in the previous session.

Oil prices traded cautiously in the morning of Asian trading hours. The international benchmark Brent crude futures contract slipped 0.2 percent to $66.26 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were largely flat at $56.93 per barrel.

— Reuters and CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.