Asia Markets

Asia stock indexes broadly positive on Tuesday; trade and emerging market concerns weigh

Key Points
  • Asia markets were largely positive on Tuesday after being in turbulent territory earlier.
  • Canada is due to meet with the U.S. this week to continue negotiations after the two countries failed to reach a trade deal last week.
  • There's concern about a slowdown in the Chinese economy following the Caixin/Markit Purchasing Manager's Index for August coming in at its lowest levels in more than a year.

Asian stock indexes were broadly positive on Tuesday afternoon, after a slightly turbulent trading day, with markets remaining uncertain over trade concerns and emerging market worries.

Japan's ended the trading day largely flat at 22,696.9, though the  majority of its major sectors were negative. South Korea's Kospi, however, extended its gains to close 0.38 percent up at 2,315.72.

In the Greater China region, markets were largely positive. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index traded up by 0.75 percent as of 3:08 p.m. HK/SIN. Over on the mainland, the closed 1.1 percent up at around 2,750.58 while the Shenzhen composite climbed up by 1.164 percent to end the trading day at roughly 1,465.79.

Down Under, Australia's ASX 200 recovered from some of its earlier losses but still ended the trading day down by 0.28 percent at 6,293.1. The heavily weighted financial sector closed 0.74 percent down.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced earlier that the official "cash rate" interest rates would be kept unchanged at 1.5 percent, in a move that was anticipated by most market observers.

"It would be easier to find a golden ticket to Willy (Wonka's) Chocolate factory than an economist who thinks that we'll see a change of rate from them today, so once again the focus will be on the rate statement," Rakuten Securities said in a morning note.

Following the announcement by the RBA, the Australian dollar weakened by about 0.11 percent against the dollar to trade at $0.7203 as of 3:04 p.m. HK/SIN.

One of the major economic focal points of the week is Canada's expected resumption of negotiations with the U.S. on the future of NAFTA after the two nations failed to come to an agreement last week. U.S. markets were closed on Monday for Labor Day.

As for Asia's largest economy, a survey released yesterday appeared to show that China is beginning to suffer some ill effects from its trade war against Washington: The Caixin/Markit Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) came in at 50.6, its lowest level since June 2017, as export sales fell for the fifth consecutive month.

Another concern for Asia will be the state of emerging market (EM) currencies as the space continues to suffer weakness. On Monday, Indonesia's rupiah fell to its weakest level in more than 20 years and the country's central bank reportedly said it would intervene in foreign exchange and bond markets.

"I think it's difficult for them," said Richard Jerram, chief economist at Bank of Singapore, on CNBC's "The Rundown."

With the latest inflation data in Indonesia at 3 percent, Jerram said: "There's no need, for domestic reasons, to be raising interest rates." Nevertheless, he added, the move to stabilize the rupiah through the use of interest rates has been "quite effective" relative to the "disasters" seen in other emerging markets such as Turkey and Argentina.

On Indonesia, DBS analysts said in a note that "respite for EM rates is likely to be elusive in the near term."

"Between EM contagion, Fed hikes and trade war, it might prove difficult for investors to take on local debt risks at this point," they cautioned.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, gained 0.28 percent at 95.403 as of 3:02 p.m. HK/SIN, after trading around 95.14 yesterday. Meanwhile, the Japanese yen weakened against the dollar at 111.34.

In oil markets, the global benchmark Brent crude futures recovered from its earlier losses to trade up 0.1 percent at $78.23 a barrel. U.S. crude futures were up 0.83 percent at $70.38 a barrel, following the evacuation of two Gulf of Mexico oil platforms in anticipation of a hurricane.

— Reuters contributed to this report.