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Asia: Shares fall after Trump takes aim at China tech firms

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Asian shares tumbled on Friday after US President Donald Trump ratcheted up already-heightened tensions with Beijing by banning US transactions with China's tech giant Tencent as well as ByteDance, the owner of video-sharing app TikTok.

[TOKYO] Asian shares tumbled on Friday after US President Donald Trump ratcheted up already-heightened tensions with Beijing by banning US transactions with China's tech giant Tencent as well as ByteDance, the owner of video-sharing app TikTok.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 1 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 2 per cent. Tencent, Asia's second-biggest company by market capitalisation, dropped 9 per cent.

Mainland China's CSI 300 Index fell 1.3 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei slipped 0.6 per cent. S&P500 futures slid 0.5 per cent.

Mr Trump's executive orders came as his administration said this week it was stepping up efforts to purge "untrusted" Chinese apps from US digital networks. Tencent owns the popular WeChat app.

The announcement blew off any excitement from China's trade data, which showed exports surged 7.2 per cent from a year earlier, way above economists' forecast of 0.2 per cent fall.

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The news also poured cold water on what had been a mildly positive mood in financial markets on hopes US policymakers will finalise stimulus worth at least US$1 trillion to support the country's fragile economy.

On Wall Street in the previous session, the S&P 500 gained 0.6 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite added 1 per cent, marking the fourth straight day of record peaks.

Investors expect another US stimulus package, though the White House and Democrats remained far apart about its size and what to include.

Risk appetite also got a mild boost after data showed on Thursday the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits for the first time fell last week to the lowest level since March.

Still, with a staggering 31.3 million people receiving unemployment checks in mid-July, there remain worries the labour market is stalling, as the country battles a resurgence in new Covid-19 cases.

The next focus is a closely-watched employment data by the US government, due at 1230 GMT, which is expected to show a payroll increase of 1.58 million in July, compared to 4.8 million in June.

US bond yields have flirted with historic lows, supported by investors' conviction that the Federal Reserve will keep monetary policy loose for the foreseeable future and could strengthen its commitment to low rates as early as next month.

The 10-year US Treasuries yield fell to a five-month low of 0.504 per cent and last stood at 0.535 per cent.

Trend-following speculators appear to be buying both stock futures and bond futures, unusual behaviour as they normally tend to rotate from one asset to another, said Masanari Takada, cross-asset strategist at Nomura Securities.

"They seem to be aggressively buying both Treasuries futures and Nasdaq futures, probably with high leverage as market volatility, especially that of Treasuries, has been so low. But this suggests after they have bought everything, there is risk they will sell everything," he said.

The prospects of a prolonged period of easy US monetary policy is supporting various asset prices while depressing the dollar.

Gold hit a record high of US$2,075.2 per ounce and last stood at US$2,064. Silver has been ballistic in recent weeks and hit a seven-year high of US$29.8384 per ounce, having gained 60 per cent so far this quarter.

The US dollar, which has been in a clear downtrend since late July, edged back against risk-sensitive currencies after Mr Trump's move.

The euro fell 0.3 per cent to US$1.1838 while the Australian dollar shed 0.35 per cent to US$0.7214. The Chinese yuan eased 0.2 per cent to 6.9670 per US dollar.

Still, many traders expect the US dollar to weaken further.

"The US has spent a massive amount of money for stimulus and the Fed has expanded balance sheet aggressively. So the dollar is abundant now," said Tatsuya Chiba, manager of forex at Mitsubishi Trust Bank.

Oil prices were little changed, with Brent futures down 0.1 per cent at US$45.04 per barrel. 

REUTERS

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