MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan declined to nine-month lowers on Thursday as traders continued to fret about U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies and how his impending tariffs will hamper global economic growth. The Nikkei 225 was also trading in negative territory, down 0.03 percent as of 1:17 p.m. HK/SIN. South Korea’s Kospi was the biggest loser of the day, trading down 0.90 percent. Some indexes managed to squeeze out some gains, with the Shanghai Composite up 0.19 percent and Australia’s ASX 200 up 0.25 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was also up 0.51 percent.
Asian shares struggled to reverse the downtrend that was prevalent throughout June, and some were successful in bucking the trend on Wall Street yesterday, when all three indexes closed lower. The S&P 500 closed on Wednesday at a one-month low after easing 0.60 percent.
President Trump announced on Wednesday that he will block foreign investments in U.S. technology companies on the grounds of national security. This change in stance marks a softening in his tone after he originally sought to target only Chinese investments. “We are going to treat China the way we are going to treat other people,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Wednesday. “And to the extent that we were worried about transactions, we will block them. But we are not going to on a wholesale basis discriminate against China as part of a negotiation.”
Analysts are questioning whether Trump’s “protectionist” policies may have an opposite effect on the U.S. economy. Automakers have begun to worry that the tariffs will cost them hundreds of thousands of jobs and will increase the price of new cars. Other industries may also be hard-hit by the tariffs. Analysts are bracing themselves for a choppy second half of the year as they sit by and wait for regulatory and political developments to impact the markets.