Markets Struggle Amid Fresh Trade Concerns
The trade struggled between the United States and China, it seems, have been the mover of markets – or the thwarter of markets – many times in the past few months, and Friday seems to be no exception. Asian stock indexes were broadly lower as they headed towards the week’s end, pressured by trader concerns about the brewing trade tensions.
On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he has no intention to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the March 1st deadline by which the two countries must reach a trade deal. Analysts had hoped that Trump would jump over to China on his upcoming trip to Asia, when he is scheduled to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but Trump’s most recent comments dispelled this belief. The comment crushed traders’ hopes that there would be a quick resolution to the dispute and sparked a selloff on Wall Street on Thursday. The Nasdaq closed down 1.18 percent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.87 percent, and the S&P 500 ended 0.94 percent lower.
Also pressuring markets was a report out Thursday that President Trump is planning to sign an executive order next week which would ban Chinese telecommunications equipment from U.S. wireless networks. According to the report, the ban will be released before the Mobile World Congress which will be held in Barcelona at the end of the month. Though Washington continues to posit that the ban is entirely for cybersecurity in the U.S., Huawei, one of the largest producers of networking equipment in the world, continues to claim that its products are entirely safe, and that Trump is using claims of cybersecurity to prevent competition in the U.S. from Chinese telecommunications companies.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 was the biggest loser, plummeting 1.95 percent by 1:42 p.m. HK/SIN on Friday. South Korea’s Kospi was a close second, down 1.24 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index saw a 0.50 percent decline, and Australia’s ASX 200 was down 0.34 percent.
Early on Friday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the U.S.-Sino trade tensions could negatively impact her country’s economy and hurt exporters, as China is New Zealand’s top trade partner, generating NZ$16.6 billion in the 12-months prior to September 2018 (more than double the country’s sales to the U.S.). Ardern also expressed concerns about a no-Brexit deal, and how such a decision could impact the global economy.