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Asia: Equities swing as trade cues awaited, Hong Kong in focus
[HONG KONG] Asian markets fluctuated on Thursday with investors shifting cautiously following another Wall Street record as Donald Trump hailed progress in the China trade talks, while eyes are also on Hong Kong after another night of violent protests.
Trading floors were edgy as a volatile week continued, with very few details from Washington and Beijing on negotiations for their mini tariffs agreement.
Mr Trump's comments on Wednesday that "our trade agreement with China is moving along very rapidly" provided some support, though observers said markets were looking for something concrete to buy into.
"Risk-off continues to linger seemingly on the lack of good news on trade talks with China," said AxiTrader senior market analyst Stephen Innes. "At this stage, even a date and a location... would be a good thing."
Equities have seen healthy rallies in recent weeks on optimism the two sides would soon reach a partial deal as part of a wider agreement to end their long-running trade war that has hit the global economy.
Michelle Girard, chief US economist at Natwest Markets, told Bloomberg TV: "We've been pushing back on a lot of this trade optimism and it's felt kind of lonely because markets have certainly embraced the news that we might have a short-term deal.
"We are not there yet."
Adding to the unease was a report that China was hesitating over aspects of the deal, which came after Mr Trump dismissed Beijing's claims last week they had a plan to roll back some tariffs as the talks progressed.
FRESH HONG KONG UNREST
Tokyo fell 0.2 per cent by the break after data showed Japan's economy grew at a slower pace than forecast in the third quarter as it was hit by trade wars.
Shanghai dropped 0.1 per cent and Taipei eased 0.3 per cent, while Manila and Jakarta were also down.
Sydney rose 0.6 per cent, Seoul edged up 0.2 per cent and Wellington put on 0.5 per cent while Singapore was flat.
Hong Kong fell 0.4 per cent following another night of unrest in the city, which has seen a pick-up in violence since the weekend as protesters blocked roads in certain districts - closing businesses - and disrupted public transport for a fourth day.
The standoff has hammered the Hang Seng Index, which has lost around four per cent this week, while there are concerns about possible intervention by Beijing.
There was little reaction to the head of the Federal Reserve saying he did not expect the central bank to lift interest rates for a fourth time this year, and that the economy would probably continue to grow but faced risks from a global slowdown and trade disputes.
In the first of two days of congressional testimony, Jerome Powell also urged lawmakers to take action on the rising US debt and deficit to ensure continued growth.
On currency markets, the Chilean peso was sitting at a record low 795 to the dollar, forcing the country's central bank to pump US$4 billion into financial markets for support. The unit has been battered by nearly four weeks of protests against the economic policies of right-wing President Sebastian Pinera.