Asian stocks slip on Wall Street leads as trade talks simmer

SINGAPORE (AP) – Asian shares were broadly lower yesterday, tracking a weak Wall Street session as traders awaited the conclusion of United States (US)-China talks in Beijing.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 retreated 1.1 per cent to 20,900.63 and the Kospi in South Korea tumbled 1.4 per cent to 2,195.07. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gave up 1.8 per cent to 27,926.20. The Shanghai Composite was one per cent lower at 2,691.64.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 bucked the regional trend, picking up 0.1 per cent to 6,066.10. Shares fell in Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia.

Disappointing data led US indexes to a mixed finish on Thursday. According to the Commerce Department, December retail sales fell 1.2 per cent from the previous month, its biggest drop since September 2009.

The National Retail Federation also announced poor holiday sales growth in November-December that it attributed to trade tensions with China and the US government shutdown.

“The market is in a defensive stance. Traders are wondering if the latest retail sales figures are a harbinger of more bad news to come,” said Economist at CIMB Private Banking Song Seng Wun.

People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. – AP

American and Chinese officials wrapped two days of negotiations in Beijing yesterday. It is unclear if they will make headway on prickly issues such as Washington’s unhappiness over Chinese technology and trade policies.

The US is set to more than double import taxes on USD200 billion in Chinese goods by March 2. But President Donald Trump has hinted that he may hold off on these if both sides made enough progress at the trade talks.

WALL STREET: The broad S&P 500 index dropped 0.3 per cent to 2,745.73. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 0.1 per cent to 7,426.95 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.4 per cent to 25,439.39. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks was 0.1 per cent higher at 1,545.11.

ENERGY: US crude added 14 cents to USD54.55 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 51 cents to settle at USD54.41 per barrel in New York on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 19 cents to USD64.76 per barrel. It rose 96 cents to close at USD64.57 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar eased to 110.38 yen from 110.45 yen late Thursday. The euro fell to USD1.1287 from USD1.1296.