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Stocks slump, yen rises as US raises stakes in trade conflict


[TOKYO] US tariffs on an additional US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods sent Asian stocks tumbling on Wednesday, with China's markets leading the declines, as trade tensions between the world's two biggest economies continued to deteriorate.

Washington decided to impose the extra tariffs after efforts to negotiate a solution to the dispute failed to reach an agreement, senior administration officials said on Tuesday.

The United States had just imposed tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese goods on Friday, drawing immediate retaliatory duties from Beijing on US imports in the first shots of a heated trade war. US President Donald Trump had warned then that his country may ultimately impose tariffs on more than US$500 billion worth of Chinese imports.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.5 per cent. The index had gained for the past two sessions, having enjoyed a lull from the trade war fears that lashed global markets last week.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 2.2 per cent and the Shanghai Composite Index slumped 2.4 per cent.

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S&P 500 and Dow futures were down 0.9 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively, pointing to a lower open for Wall Street later in the day.

South Korea's Kospi lost 1.3 per cent and Japan's Nikkei fell 1.8 per cent.

"The markets still remain sensitive to the trade-related theme, which is something investors have to take into account for the long term," said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management in Tokyo.

"At the same time, the trade dispute can easily be blamed for a variety of ills. But it could mask over factors that could also weigh on equities in the longer run, such as tighter monetary policies led by the United States."

The yen, often sought in times of political tensions and market turmoil, gained against a number of peers.

The dollar was down 0.1 per cent at 110.88 yen, pulled back from a near two-month peak of 111.355.

The euro fell 0.25 per cent to 130.11 yen and the Australian dollar lost 0.7 per cent to 82.24 yen.

The Aussie, considered a liquid proxy for China-related trades, fell 0.5 per cent against the dollar to US$0.7422.

China's yuan lost more than 0.5 per cent against the US dollar and back towards an 11-month low plumbed last week.

The 10-year Treasury note yield fell nearly 4 basis points to 2.8363 per cent, pulling back sharply from a one-week peak of 2.875 per cent scaled the previous day.

Oil prices fell after the United States said it would consider requests from some countries to be exempted from sanctions it will put into effect in November that prevents Iran from exporting oil.

Brent crude futures lost 1.25 per cent to US$77.92 a barrel. Oil had risen the previous day, supported by a larger-than expected US stock draw and supply concerns in Norway and Libya.

Copper on the London Metal Exchange sank roughly 3 per cent to brush US$6,092.50 per tonne, lowest since July 2017.


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