Asian shares cautious amid elevated US-China trade tensions

  • Asian stocks closed mixed on Friday, with investors cautious over concerns that the U.S. could raise proposed tariffs on Chinese goods.
  • Trade jitters pressured Chinese equities, which extended losses on Friday.
  • The dollar held onto overnight gains ahead of the release of U.S. jobs data later in the day.

Asian stocks closed mixed on Friday, with trade jitters weighing on Chinese shares while the dollar traded near its highest levels in around two weeks.

Japan's Nikkei 225 edged up by 0.06 percent, or 12.65 points, to close at 22,525.18. Precision machinery makers, energy and automobiles rose, with Suzuki Motor up 8.55 percent after reporting strong earnings. The broader Topix pulled back by 0.54 percent, with 27 of its 33 sectors finishing lower.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
---
HSI
---
ASX 200
---
SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
---
CNBC 100
---

In South Korea, the Kospi added 0.77 percent to end at 2,287.68 as the manufacturing sector, retailers and technology notched gains. Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics edged up by 0.44 percent. Australian stocks tracked slightly lower, with the S&P/ASX 200 slipping 0.1 percent to 6,234.80.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index eased 0.22 percent by 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN, with the materials, consumer goods and services sectors falling by more than 2 percent before the market close. Chinese shares also stumbled, with the Shanghai Composite losing 0.97 percent to finish at 2,741.08 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite dropping 1.72 percent.

MSCI's broad index of shares in Asia Pacific outside of Japan slipped 0.06 percent in afternoon trade.

The cautious mood came amid an elevation in trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The Trump administration said that President Donald Trump had asked U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider hiking proposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from a previously announced 10 percent to 25 percent.

China responded on Thursday, saying that it was "fully prepared" to defend "the interests of the people ... [and] free trade."

"Any hope of U.S.-China trade dispute resolution is predicated on the ability to walk in each other's shoes, not running one another down. And that appears to [be] too much to hope for," Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, said in a morning note.

Chinese shares have taken a knock this week on the back of uncertainty over trade policy. The Shanghai Composite lost 4.6 percent in the week and the blue-chip CSI 300 pulled back by 5.9 percent in that time, according to Reuters.

Amid those trade worries, the dollar mostly held onto gains made overnight. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of peers, last stood at 95.172 after touching a two-week high earlier.

The moves in the dollar also came ahead of the release of the July jobs report stateside due during U.S. hours. Nonfarm payrolls are expected to show an increase of 190,000 jobs, according to a Reuters poll.

In other currencies, the offshore yuan traded at 6.8964 to the dollar at 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN after slipping to a more than 14-month low overnight.

Meanwhile, the pound was on the back foot even after the Bank of England announced an interest rate hike, with the central bank noting that Brexit talks were entering "a critical period." The currency last traded at $1.3009.

Wall Street had shrugged off trade concerns to close higher on Thursday, with the positive sentiment driven by a tech-led gains. Apple took the crown to become the first publicly traded U.S. company to reach the $1 trillion market value milestone. Apple shares have been on a tear since the company reported strong third-quarter earnings earlier this week.

Singapore lender UOB, meanwhile, reported net profit rose 28 percent to 1.08 billion Singapore dollars ($787 million) in the second quarter. The result topped an average forecast of S$993.9 million from two analysts, Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S said. Shares inched lower by 0.07 percent at 3:04 p.m. HK/SIN.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.