Asian markets rise as focus turns to resumption of trade talks

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets rose yesterday as investors lock their focus on the resumption of China-United States (US) trade talks this week, though hopes for success are being tempered by mixed messages from both sides.

There has been a general feeling of positivity in recent weeks that a solution to the long-running tariffs saga can be found, providing some much-needed support to equities in the face of worsening economic data.

Beijing’s top trade envoy Liu He is due to meet with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin from tomorrow.

But observers warn it is unlikely progress will be smooth, with reports this week saying China had cut back on the number of areas it is willing to discuss, suggesting leaders sense weakness in the White House as Donald Trump faces impeachment proceedings and a slowing economy.

Trump said late on Monday he preferred to strike a big deal.

“We’ve come this far. We’re doing well. I would much prefer a big deal and I think that’s what we’re shooting for,” he told reporters.

And on Monday, the US said it was blacklisting 28 Chinese entities it accuses of being implicated in rights violations and abuses targetting Uighurs and other mostly minorities in the Xinjiang region.

The move bars them from buying US products.

The meeting comes just over a week before a new round of punitive tariffs is due to be imposed on China. “A large percentage of the market thinks China may roll the dice and take advantage of what they think is Trump’s weakened political state, trying to push negotiations” closer to next November’s presidential election, said Asia-Pacific Market Strategist at AxiTrader Stephen Innes.

“In this context… Trump may decide to hardball the upcoming talks, suggesting there could be a high level of disappointment even relative to the market’s muted expectations.”

Still, regional markets were enjoying some much-needed buying support yesterday as the Chinese delegation heads to Washington.

Hong Kong edged up 0.3 per cent as dealers returned from a long weekend break to mixed US jobs data that eased concerns about a US recession while also keeping expectations for an interest rate intact.

The gains come despite more violent protests in the city, which closed down the subway system last Saturday and caused numerous businesses to shutter.

Shanghai ended up 0.3 per cent following the week-long National Day celebrations, while Tokyo closed one per cent higher.

Sydney and Singapore were each 0.5 per cent higher, Seoul rose 1.2 per cent, Manila jumped 0.7 per cent, Taipei added 0.8 per cent and Jakarta put on 0.4 per cent. Wellington and Bangkok were also up. “The fact that both sides are due to meet is seen as positive step, and just because Beijing are not willing to alter their position on certain topics, don’t mean that progress can’t be made in other areas,” said Market Analyst at CMC Markets UK David Madden. On currency markets most higher-yielding units were up against the dollar, boosted by hopes for the trade talks.