Asian stocks set for slight gains; first wave of tariffs looms

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Asian markets were set for slight gains on Thursday, with investors nervous ahead of a deadline when tariffs from the U.S. and China are due to be implemented.

Futures tipped markets in Japan and Australia to open higher. Nikkei futures were mostly flat, trading 0.06 percent higher than the index’s Wednesday close. Australian futures were up 0.2 percent at the end of the previous session.

Concerns over a trade dispute between the U.S. and China have weighed on market sentiment in the lead-up to tariffs both countries say will take effect on July 6. The Trump administration has levied a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion in Chinese goods, while the Chinese government has retaliated by announcing tariffs on the same value of U.S. goods.

Due to the time difference, duties imposed by Beijing will likely take effect before Washington’s tariffs on Friday. China’s finance ministry, however, has said that it “absolutely will not fire the first shot” in its trade spat with the U.S., Reuters reported.

European stocks closed mixed in the last session, with investors nervous over heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade. The pan-European Stoxx 600 edged up by 0.04 percent by the end of the day, but the U.K.’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX both recorded moderate declines.

Markets stateside were closed on Wednesday because of the Independence Day holiday.

In corporate news, the HNA Group Chairman Wang Jian passed away in an accident while on a business trip in France, the company said. Wang had a 15 percent stake in the group, formerly one of China’s most acquisitive companies, according to Reuters.

In currencies, the yuan gained after notching an 11-month low against the dollar earlier this week. The stabilization in the currency came after the People’s Bank of China reassured markets about the currency.

The dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of currencies, last stood at 94.671. Against the yen, the dollar traded at 110.46 at 6:58 a.m. HK/SIN, below levels around the 110.8 handle seen at beginning of the week.

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