GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia shares hit 4-mth low on risk of endless trade war

Credit: REUTERS/Aly Song

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY, May 23 (Reuters) - Asian shares broke support and caved to a four-month low on Thursday, as concerns grew that the Sino-U.S. trade conflict was fast morphing into a prolonged technology cold war between the world's two largest economies.

Late Wednesday, Reuters reported the U.S. administration was considering Huawei-like sanctions on Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision 002415.SZ over the country's treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority, according to a person briefed on the matter.

After the United States placed Huawei Technologies HWT.UL on a trade blacklist last week, British chip designer ARM has halted relations with Huawei in order to comply with the blockade.

Digging the knife in, the U.S. military said it sent two Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday.

"Both the U.S. and China appear to be preparing for a prolonged period of trade conflict," wrote analysts at Nomura in a note on the standoff.

"We think domestic pressures and constraints will drive both sides towards further escalation," they warned. "Without a clear way forward during an intensifying 2020 U.S. presidential election, we see a rising risk that tariffs will remain in effect through end 2020."

Shanghai blue chips .CSI300 shed 1.2% in response to be near their lowest since February. An index of major telecoms firms .CSI000994 fell 2.7% as suppliers to Huawei suffered.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS touched its lowest in four months and was last down 0.7%.

Japan's Nikkei .N225 lost 0.7% and South Korea .KS11 0.3%. Also feeling the pain, E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 ESc1 dropped 0.4%.

India's market .BSESN was expected to buck the trend as media reported Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party was well ahead in an election vote count.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday it would be at least a month before the United States would enact proposed tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports as it studies the impact on American consumers.

Minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's last meeting out on Wednesday underlined its readiness to be patient on policy "for some time" given the uncertain global outlook.

The chance of a rate cut seemed to diminish as many Fed policy makers saw recent weakness in inflation as "transitory", though the latest escalation in the trade war means markets are still wagering on an eventual easing FEDWATCH.

Yields on two-year Treasuries US2YT=RR of 2.237% are also well below the current effective funds rate at 2.39%.


In currencies, constant trade friction saw the safe haven yen in demand again as the dollar dipped to 110.24 yen JPY= and away from the week's top of 110.67.

The dollar fared better on the euro at $1.1151 EUR= and was steady on a basket of currencies at 98.111 .DXY.

Sterling had troubles of its own at $1.2646, having hit a four-month low of $1.2625 GBP= overnight.

British Prime Minister Theresa May came under intense pressure after her latest Brexit gambit backfired and fuelled calls for her to quit.

Prominent Brexit supporter Andrea Leadsom resigned from the government on Wednesday and British media reported May could announce her departure date as early as Friday.

"Uncertainty is the only clear certainty in the near term," said Westpac macro strategist Tim Riddell.

"The risk of a hard-Brexit replacement for May has increased the risks of a hard Brexit result or even a forced no-deal exit," he added. "Such an event would likely force GBP lower, increase risks of assets sliding and BOE (Bank of England) taking counter action to support assets."

In commodity markets, spot gold was little changed at $1,273.12 per ounce XAU=.

Oil prices added to losses suffered overnight after an unexpected build in U.S. crude inventories compounded investor worries about demand. O/R

U.S. crude CLc1 was last down 33 cents at $61.09 a barrel, while Brent crude LCOc1 futures lost 40 cents to $70.59.

Asia stock markets

Asia-Pacific valuations

(Editing by Sam Holmes and Jacqueline Wong)

((; 612 9321 8162; Reuters Messaging:

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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