Asian shares pressured as Wall St ends off highs, focus on Xi speech

An electronic board showing the Nikkei share average is seen as market prices are reflected in a glass window at the Tokyo Stock Exchange February 6, 2018. — Reuters pic
An electronic board showing the Nikkei share average is seen as market prices are reflected in a glass window at the Tokyo Stock Exchange February 6, 2018. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, April 10 — Asian shares edged lower today as Wall Street retreated from its highs after the FBI raided the offices of US President Donald Trump's long time lawyer, dampening risk appetite already under strain from an escalating US-China trade spat.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.2 per cent. South Korea's KOSPI fell 0.8 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei shed 0.4 per cent.

The sharp pullback on Wall Street late in yesterday's trading seems to be dampening market sentiment, said Hirofumi Suzuki, an economist for Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Singapore.

“US equities rapidly lost momentum and so sentiment wasn't that positive in the end,” Suzuki said.

News that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had raided the offices and home of Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen yesterday had put a dampener on equities, which had rallied on signs of cooling in the China-US trade spat.

Cohen has been at the centre of a controversy surrounding payment to a porn star who has alleged that she had sex once in 2006 with Trump and was paid money shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about it.

On Wall Street yesterday, the S&P 500 stock index gave up intraday gains as much as 1.9 per cent to end up 0.3 per cent.

Markets are keenly awaiting a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Boao Forum on today, which could elicit Xi's first reaction on the tariff standoff with the United States.

Financial markets have been buffeted over the past week or so amid the tit-for-tat tariff threats between the world's two biggest economies.

Yesterday, China stepped up its attacks Washington over billions of dollars worth of threatened tariffs, but Trump again voiced optimism the two sides would hammer out a trade deal.

Global equities managed to rally overnight on hopes the two sides will cool tensions and avert a full-scale trade row, with oil prices up more than 2 per cent overnight for their biggest daily percentage gain since March 21.

Brent crude futures rose US$1.54 (RM5.95) to settle at US$68.65 a barrel.

Russian stock indexes and the rouble both fell sharply yesterday after the United States hit Russian companies and officials with new financial sanctions to punish Moscow for a range of activities, including alleged meddling in the 2016 US election.

The US dollar-denominated RTS stock market index slid 11.4 per cent, its largest single-day drop since December 2014, while the rouble slid more than 4 per cent against the dollar, the biggest loss since January 2015.

US dollar on defensive

The US dollar nursed its losses after slipping against a basket of six major currencies yesterday, hampered by persistent worries about the US-China trade conflict.

The US dollar index held steady at 89.805, after shedding 0.3 per cent yesterday.

The euro inched up 0.1 per cent to US$1.2327, clinging to the gains made yesterday when it rose 0.3 per cent as comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi were seen as supportive for the common currency.

A slide in stock markets this year has not materially impacted euro zone financial conditions, Draghi said yesterday, suggesting that policymakers remain calm about the recent market volatility. — Reuters

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