Investor Optimism Crashed by U.S. Data
Investor optimism about a trade deal between the United States and China has been propelling markets forward all week, but weak data out of the U.S. on Thursday tempered the excitement by showing a slowdown in the country’s economy. Factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region contracted for the first time in February since May 2016, and home sales fell to a three-year low in January. Coupled with weak data in January that showed a reduction in retail sales and a decline in manufacturing output last month, traders are beginning to wonder if the U.S. economy is as strong as it should be or was previously believed to be. All three Wall Street benchmarks closed lower on Thursday, snapping a days-old winning streak and causing Asian indexes to search for direction on Friday.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down 0.10 percent as of 2:15 p.m. HK/SIN, as was Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index. South Korea’s Kospi was down 0.15 percent. The indexes that advanced on Friday included Australia’s ASX 200, up 0.46 percent, the Shanghai Composite, which gained 0.87 percent, and the Shenzhen Composite which enjoyed a 1.55 percent gain.
Also confusing markets was the advance of the trade talks between Chinese and American officials on Thursday, where Reuters reports the negotiators are reaching the most difficult issues of the conflict that need to be addressed. Though both investors and high-level officials expressed optimism during the initial progression of the talks, things become instantly more complicated when it comes time to cement the details, rather than just create a broad outline for the future. Though reports indicate that both sides have found a solution to ending the trade imbalance that U.S. President Donald Trump has fought so strongly against, there seems to be little advance in relation to the Chinese behavior, specifically security issues, that sparked the tariffs in the first place.
Trump will meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the Oval Office later today, where they are expected to focus on these issues.