US-China Trade Fears Pull Shares Lower

BANGKOK (AP) -- Shares skidded in Asia on Wednesday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 470 points overnight amid mounting trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index dropped 1.8% to 21,537.24 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong sank 0.7% to 29,156.23. Australia's S&P ASX 200 gave up 0.6% to 6,261.10.

The Shanghai Composite edged 0.1% lower after China reported its exports fell 2.7% in April.

A broad sell-off on Wall Street pulled the Dow 1.8%, or 473.39 points, lower on Tuesday to 25,965.09 as the U.S. and China moved closer to an escalation of their already costly trade war.

The U.S. and China have raised tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of each other's goods in their dispute over U.S. complaints about Chinese technology ambitions.

"The intensification of the trade war between the U.S. and China sustains the negative spell on markets with Asian risk assets poised for another bad day today," ING said in a commentary. "Adding to the emerging market woes are political jitters in Turkey, South Africa, and Thailand."

Washington has accused Beijing of reneging on its commitments and is preparing to raise import taxes on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10% on Friday, and to impose tariffs on another $325 billion in imports, covering everything the country ships annually to the United States.

On Thursday, representatives from both nations are scheduled to resume trade talks in Washington --- a last chance to stave off those increases.

Encouraged by signals from both sides that progress was being made toward resolving a festering dispute over Beijing's industrial policies, investors pushed the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq to all-time highs last week.

A more dovish stance by the Federal Reserve and strong jobs and other data also raised hopes for a stronger economic outlook.

However, markets remain vulnerable to any reversals in the trade talks. This week investors have dumped shares of companies that bring in significant revenue from China, such as those in the technology and industrial sectors. Banks have also taken heavy losses.

"For a third straight session investors are switching out of riskier assets and into havens such as government bonds, gold and the Japanese yen," Jasper Lawler of LCG said in a research note.

Every sector fell. Utilities, normally safe-play holdings for investors, fared better than the rest of the market. Bond prices also rose as investors sought out other ways to reduce risk.

The S&P 500 index slumped 1.7% to 2,884.05. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, fell 2% to 7,963.76, while the Russell 2000 index of small company stocks gave up 2% to $1,582.31. Major indexes in Europe also finished lower.

Trump's threat of additional tariffs is forcing investors to reassess those expectations. One measure of fear in the market, which tracks how much traders are paying to buy protection from price swings in the S&P 500, had its biggest jump Tuesday in nearly seven months. It remains low by historical standards, though, after earlier in the year dropping by more than half since the end of 2018.

It's yet to be determined whether the brinksmanship tactics from the Trump administration will help or hurt the prospects of a deal getting done quickly, something that investors want.

"This is such a short period of time that it's hard to speculate whether this will cause something to get done quickly or whether it will drag on for months," said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude gained 47 cents to $61.87 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 1.4% to settle at $61.40 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 39 cents to $70.27 per barrel. It lost 1.9% to close at $69.88 per barrel overnight.

The dollar fell to 110.00 Japanese yen from 111.90 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1201 from $1.1203.

(BAS)