Asia markets close subdued as investors watch US-China talks

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Asia markets turned in a subdued performance, with major indexes closing in negative territory, as investors watched how U.S.-China trade talks progressed on Friday.

Greater China markets were weak for most of the trading day, weighed down by losses in the financial and metals sectors. The Shanghai Composite edged down 0.32 percent to 3,091.03, while the Shenzhen Composite lost 0.21 percent to close at 1,789.07.

The Hang Seng Index declined 1.06 percent at 3:13 p.m. HK/SIN, with financials and tech weighing down the index.

In Australia, the ASX 200 was down 0.58 percent to finish at 6,062.90, with losses seen in the heavily weighted financials subindex.

The Kospi dropped 1.04 percent to close at 2,461.38, with declines in the autos and tech sectors. Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics, which resumed trade on Friday after a halt, lost 2.08 percent.

Japanese markets were closed on Friday for a holiday.

The Dow Jones industrial average carved out gains of 5.17 points to close at 23930.15, while the other major U.S. indexes closed down moderately.

On U.S.-China trade talks, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Friday — the second and likely final day of the talks — that “very good conversations” have been taking place.

The discussions, led by Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, are expected to cover a wide range of U.S. complaints about China’s trade practices, from accusations of forced technology transfers to state subsidies for technology development.

However, a breakthrough deal is viewed as highly unlikely.

“Substantive progress on IP protections and cutting the US goods/trade deficit with China by a fixed amount seem some way off, or unlikely,” ANZ analysts said in a note.

Ahead, markets will watch U.S. jobs data due during U.S. hours, with the April report likely to underscore labor market strength.

Wall Street also eyed Washington amid more news regarding Trump’s legal troubles regarding a hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

In corporate news, HSBC reported a 4 percent fall in profit before tax for its first quarter earnings. The bank’s revenue for the quarter, meanwhile, climbed to $13.71 billion from $12.993 billion a year ago. Following the results release, its shares in Hong Kong were down 3.47 percent at 3:19 p.m. HK/SIN.

In Australia, Macquarie Group announced its full year results, with full year net profit at $2.56 billion Australian dollars ($1.92 billion). Its shares were up 0.24 percent at the end of trading, despite most Australian financials declining.

In its debut in Hong Kong, shares of Ping An Group’s Good Doctor online health care platform were up slightly at 0.18 percent from its issue price. It had raised $1.12 billion after pricing its public offering at HK$54.80 a share.

In currencies, the dollar traded at 109.04 against the yen at 3:22 p.m. HK/SIN, which was slightly below Thursday’s session low of 109.14. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, last traded at 92.547 — below a four-month high hit earlier this week.

Oil prices held mostly steady after gains seen in the last session, when investors were focused on the possibility of the U.S. imposing sanctions against Iran.

Brent crude futures were down 0.29 percent to trade at $73.42 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was slightly down at 0.15 percent to trade at $68.33 a barrel.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Thomas Franck and Reuters contributed to this report.

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