Asian stocks dropped for the third consecutive session on September 3, hit by worries over further escalation of the U.S-China trade war and unstable emerging market currencies. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7% while Japan’s Nikkei shed 0.5% though trade could be subdued due to a U.S. market holiday on Monday.
“It looks almost certain that U.S. President Donald Trump will impose 25% tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports from China,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.
Trump said last week he was ready to implement the new tariffs as soon as a public comment period on the plan ends on Thursday, which would be a major escalation given the United States has already applied tariffs on $50 on of exports from China. Shanghai shares, which fell 5.3% last month on worries about the trade war, dropped 0.9% to 2,700, edging back at the 2 1/2-year low of 2,653 set two weeks ago.
“The markets tend to think ahead. After the tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports, they will worry what can come next. Unless the trade war anxiety is dispelled, you cannot rule out the possibility of shares falling further,” said Shenshen Wan, Strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research.
On the other hand U.S. stocks, especially technology shares, have fared better, thanks in part to the strength of current economic data and corporate profits. The Nasdaq index gained 5.7% last month, with Apple gaining almost 20%, the biggest percentage gains since April 2009.
Major economic U.S. data due this week, such as a manufacturing survey on Tuesday and an employment report on Friday, is also expected to show solid conditions, possibly underpinning Wall Street shares. “U.S. shares and only a handful of countries are likely to continue to attract global funds,” said Mitsubishi’s Fujito.
Trade war worries have lifted the safe-haven Swiss franc, which hit a four-month high of 0.9654 franc to the dollar and one-year high of 1.1240 per euro on Friday. It last stood at 0.9699 and 1.1250. In contrast, the Australian dollar, sometimes used as a proxy for bets on China, hit a 20-month low of $0.71655.
Among the G3 currencies, the euro, which is generally positively correlated to risk sentiment, tends to ease on trade worries while the yen tends to gain but the two currencies’ reactions have been more qualified.
Both currencies have been pinned in a narrow range, with the euro trading little changed at $1.1600. The yen changed hands at 111.12 per dollar, also flat.
Investors remained wary of emerging market currencies after sharp sell-offs in the Argentine’s peso and the Turkish lira last month on worries over their economic management, big current account deficits and inflation.
That spilled over to a few other emerging countries that share some of those traits, albeit to a less degree. The Indonesian rupiah fell to 14,777 to the dollar, its lowest levels since the country’s economic crisis two decades ago. The Turkish lira stood at 6.6200 per dollar in early Monday trade, down about 1 percent.
Oil prices dipped on Monday on rising supply from OPEC and the United States, although expectations of falling Iranian output once U.S. sanctions take effect in November provided some support.
Benchmark Brent crude oil fell 0.4% to $77.35 per barrel, slipping further from Thursday’s seven-week high of $78.03 per barrel. U.S. crude futures fetched $69.82 per barrel, down 0.3% and off $70.50 marked on Thursday, their highest levels since July 20.