Asia Markets

Asia markets decline amid fresh concerns over US-China trade

Key Points
  • Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was lower in afternoon trade while stocks in Australia, Japan, and South Korea slipped on the day.
  • CNBC learned through a source that a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping was "highly unlikely" in the coming weeks.
  • That development came following comments from White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who said China and the U.S. were still far away on striking a trade deal.

Stocks in Asia slipped on Friday amid growing concerns over the trade fight between the U.S. and China.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index, which returned to trade after being offline for most of the week due to the Lunar New Year holidays, slipped 0.18 percent in afternoon trade. Shares of Chinese tech heavyweight Tencent declined 0.52 percent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 declined 2.01 percent to close at 20,333.17 as index heavyweight Fast Retailing fell 0.5 percent. The Topix shed 1.89 percent to close at 1,539.40. Shares of Sony, however, bucked the overall downward trend and jumped 4.1 percent after the company announced its first-ever share buyback of $910 million.

South Korea's Kospi also slipped 1.2 percent to finish its trading week at 2,177.05.

The in Australia shed 0.34 percent to close at 6,071.5. The energy subindex fell 2.63 percent as oil stocks declined on the back of Thursday's drop in crude prices.

Santos shares fell 4.37 percent, Woodside Petroleum slipped 1.67 percent and Beach Energy dropped 9.67 percent.

Oil prices declined in afternoon trade on Friday during Asian hours. The international Brent crude futures contract slipped 0.8 percent to $61.14 per barrel while U.S. crude futures fell 0.85 percent to $52.19 per barrel.

In India, Tata Motors shares plummeted more than 18 percent after the company announced its largest quarterly loss on Thursday.

US-China trade fears

On Thursday, investor confidence dented as it became clear that a trade meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping would not happen before a key March deadline.

CNBC learned through a source that a meeting between the two leaders was "highly unlikely."

China and the U.S. have until the start of March to strike a trade deal. Otherwise, additional tariffs on Chinese goods will take effect. The source said a meeting between Xi and Trump could happen shortly after the deadline passes, but noted both sides have much work ahead of them. Trump later confirmed he would not be meeting Xi before the deadline.

One investor warned that Trump may have limited motivation to pursue a trade deal with China.

"In the short-run, the reason that we have this trade war is more to do with Trump's base and his opinion polls," Steve Goldman, managing director at Kapstream Capital, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Friday.

"In a good portion of the country, this trade war rhetoric plays very, very well and ... it supports (Trump's) poll numbers," Goldman said. "And to the extent that that continues and it looks like it does, Trump doesn't really have a big incentive to settle this."

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said earlier on Thursday that China and the U.S. were still far away on striking a trade deal.

"Our long held assumption is the US will eventually put a 25% tariff on all of its imports from China," Joseph Capurso, senior currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said in a morning note.

"In our assessment, the Chinese economy can absorb the tariff increases but it will cause the Chinese economic growth to slow modestly," Capurso said.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 220.77 points to 25,169.53 while the shed 0.94 percent to 2,706.05. The Nasdaq Composite slipped about 1.2 percent to 7,288.35.


The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, last traded at 96.593 after seeing lows below 96.4 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.71 against the dollar after touching lows of about 110 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7079 after seeing continued weakness following its sharp decline from levels near $0.7260 on Wednesday.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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