A sell-off in Chinese stocks drove Asian equities to a four-month low on Tuesday as US President Donald Trump threatened new tariffs on Chinese goods in an escalating tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.
Trump warned on Monday that Washington would impose a 10 per cent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods after Beijing’s decision to raise tariffs on $50 billion in US goods, which was in retaliation for US tariffs announced on Friday.
Trump said if China increases its tariffs again in response to the latest US move, “we will meet that action by pursuing additional tariffs on another $200 billion of goods.”
China warned it will take “qualitative” and “quantitative” measures if the US government publishes an additional list of tariffs on its products.
The trade frictions have unnerved financial markets, with investors and businesses increasingly worried that a full-blown trade battle could derail global growth.
“Trump appears to be employing a similar tactic he used with North Korea, by blustering first in order to gain an advantage in negotiations. The problem is, such a tactic is unlikely to work with China,” said Kota Hirayama, senior emerging markets economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.
“A U.S.-China trade spat alone won’t hurt global growth. But there is always potential for Trump to keep increasing his threats which could have broader implications. Increasing trade has helped growth in emerging markets and this could be negatively affected.”
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS lost more than 1.0 per cent to its lowest level since early February, dragged down by a slide in Chinese shares. The index was last down 0.95 per cent.
The Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC dropped 1.9 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng .HSI shed 2.0 per cent.
“China’s economy has already been clouded by a sharp slowdown in fixed asset investment growth due to the government’s deleveraging drive, a problematic property sector, a mounting debt burden and rising credit defaults,” economists at Nomura wrote.
“The rising risk of a disruptive trade conflict makes a bad situation tentatively worse.”
Japan's Nikkei .N225 lost 0.9 per cent, South Korea's KOSPI .KS11 retreated 0.7 per cent while Australian stocks bucked the trend and added 0.35 per cent.
S&P 500 futures ESc1 were off 0.8 per cent, pointing to an another down day for Wall Street shares which slipped on Monday.
The dollar fell 0.6 per cent to 109.895 yen JPY= following Trump's tariff comments. The yen is often sought in times of market turmoil and political tensions.
The euro was 0.1 per cent higher at $1.1635 EUR=. The Australian dollar AUD=D4, often seen as a proxy to China-related trades, shed 0.25 per cent to $0.7406 after brushing a one-year low of $0.7394.
In commodities, crude oil markets remained volatile ahead of Friday’s OPEC meeting at a time when Russia and Saudi Arabia are pushing for higher output, Reuters reported.
Brent crude futures LCOc1 fell 0.5 per cent to $74.98 a barrel after rallying 2.5 per cent overnight.
Lower-risk assets gained on the latest round of trade threats.
Spot gold XAU= was up 0.4 per cent at $1,283.11 an ounce. The 10-year US Treasury note yield US10YT=RR declined to 2.881 per cent, its lowest since June 1.
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