TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares were on the defensive on Friday as investors kept a wary eye on economic tensions between Washington and Beijing while the euro was steady after the European Central Bank halted new bond purchases as expected.
FILE PHOTO: Men look at stock quotation boards outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.3 percent while Japan’s Nikkei dropped 0.4 percent.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 ticked down 0.02 percent to 2,650, not far from its 6-1/2-month closing low of 2,633 touched on Nov 23, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.39 percent.
“If U.S. shares fall below their triple bottoms hit recently, that would be a very weak technical sign,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.
U.S. corporate earnings due next month could throw a spotlight on the impact from the U.S. tariffs on imports from China, while there is risk of a government shutdown and further political stalemate in a divided U.S. congress, he said.
“Although hopes of progress in U.S.-China talks and cheap valuations are supporting the market for now, we have lots of potential pitfalls,” Kuramochi added.
A Chinese commerce ministry spokesman said on Thursday China and the United States are in close contact over trade and that any U.S. trade delegation would be welcome to visit.
But that has hardly dispelled concerns about a broadening confrontation between the two economic heavyweights.
China said on Thursday a Canadian businessman is being investigated on suspicion of harming China’s security, days after a former Canadian diplomat was detained in an escalating diplomatic row.
The moves are seen as a reaction to Canada’s arrest on Dec. 1 of Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, for extradition to the United States. [HWT.UL].
The euro changed hands at $1.1362, stuck in its well-worn $1.13-$1.14 range over the past few days.
The ECB ended its 2.6 trillion euro crisis-fighting bond purchase scheme but pledged to continue reinvesting maturing bonds – thereby avoiding shrinking its balance sheet – for an extended period of time.
The plan lifted Portuguese and Irish government bond prices sharply on Thursday.
Sterling’s rally fizzled as signs that the British parliament was headed toward a deadlock over Brexit prompted traders to take profits from its gains made after Prime Minister Theresa May had survived a no-confidence vote.
May admitted on Thursday she did not expect a quick breakthrough in Brexit talks that would help get the deal through parliament.
The European Union has said the agreed Brexit deal is not open for renegotiation even though its leaders on Thursday gave May assurances that they would seek to agree a new pact with Britain by 2021 so that the contentious Irish “backstop” is never triggered.
The currency traded at $1.2655, off Wednesday’s low of $1.2477, but remains on track to post its fourth consecutive week of losses, with a fall of 0.6 percent so far this week.
The dollar stood at 113.60 yen, flat on the day but having risen from this week’s low of 112.245 set on Monday.
Oil prices held firm after data showed on Thursday inventory declines in the United States and as investors began to expect that the global oil market could have a deficit sooner than they had previously thought.
The International Energy Agency said in its monthly report that OPEC’s output agreement with Russia and Canada’s decision to mandate production cuts could create an oil market supply deficit by the second quarter of next year. [IEA/M]
Both Brent crude and U.S. light crude gained more than 2.5 percent on Thursday.
U.S. crude last traded at $52.77 per barrel, up 19 cents or 0.35 percent.
Editing by Shri Navaratnam