Asian shares get off to a cautious start as trade tensions mount

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Markets in the region traded cautiously higher on Monday as markets focused on a mix of trade tensions and a landmark meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 searched for direction, tacking on 0.04 percent as gains in consumer and tech names were offset by declines in financials and mining names. The broader Topix traded below breakeven.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s benchmark Kospi rose 0.3 percent. Markets in Australia, meanwhile, are closed on Monday.

Investors are expected to keep an eye on trade tensions between the U.S. and its traditional allies, including Canada and the European Union. U.S. President Donald Trump on the weekend withdrew his support for a G-7 declaration and criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for being “dishonest and weak.”

The Trump administration had applied tariffs on aluminum and steel tariffs on other G-7 members ahead of the G-7 summit last week. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU was preparing its own countermeasures against the U.S., Reuters reported.

U.S. stocks closed slightly higher on Friday, with major indexes finishing the week higher despite caution over trade-related tensions playing out at the G-7 summit, which concluded on Saturday. The major averages rose at least 1.2 percent for the week.

The gains notched stateside on Friday were in contrast to declines seen in European and Asian markets in the last session, with the pan-European Stoxx 600 slipping 0.21 percent. MSCI’s index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan had fallen more than 1 percent in the previous session.

Meanwhile, a planned summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that’s taking place in Singapore on Tuesday is expected to take center stage. Both arrived in the country on Sunday and are set to make history as the first sitting leaders of their respective countries to meet face-to-face.

Central banks are expected to come into focus later in the week, with Federal Reserve and European Central Bank meetings in the days ahead. The Fed is expected to announce an interest rate hike and the ECB has said it will be discussing how it will wind down its asset-purchasing program.

The dollar was steady against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index standing at 93.522 at 8:19 a.m. HK/SIN. Against the yen, the greenback traded at 109.42.

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