Asia Markets

Major Asian stock markets slip as investors seek clarity on US-China trade

Key Points
  • Stocks in China slipped on the day after a turbulent session.
  • Other major Asian stock markets also closed lower.
  • U.S. stocks received a boost after President Donald Trump's declaration that America would delay placing additional tariffs on Chinese imports at the start of March.

Major Asian stock markets closed lower on Tuesday, as investors sought clarity on the U.S.-China trade front a day after President Donald Trump postponed a closely watched tariff deadline in early March.

In a volatile session Tuesday, mainland Chinese stocks slipped on the day after registering strong gains on Monday. The Shanghai composite fell 0.67 percent to around 2,941.52 while the Shenzhen component declined 0.499 percent to about 9,089.04. The Shenzhen composite shed 0.486 percent to approximately 1,549.71.

The moves came after Chinese stocks saw explosive gains on Monday on the back of optimism on the U.S.-China trade negotiations, which saw the Shanghai composite surge more than 5 percent into bull market territory.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.65 percent, as of its final hour of trade.

US-China trade

One analyst expressed caution over the sharp rise in shares seen in China on Monday.

"If you look at how China performed relative to the rest of Asia, most Asian markets performed much less, I mean, less than 1 percent gains in most other Asian markets including Hong Kong," Vasu Menon, OCBC Bank's vice president of wealth management, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Tuesday.

Menon said the large gains could have been a result of retail investors jumping in as well as speculation amid the "euphoria."

"I'm not saying the China market is frothy. I'm just saying that, you know, what happened yesterday seemed to be a bit ... misplaced," Menon said.

Others questioned what a trade deal between the U.S. and China would look like.

Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said in a note that "its important to understand that a final trade agreement could take many forms."

"The US could promise to keep tariffs where they are (with no further increases) and review them in a few months / years or they could abolish them completely," Lien added.

"There's also a possibility that a deal 'might not happen at all' according to Trump but he's motivated to get it done," she said.

Asia trading day

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.37 percent to close at 21,449.39 while the Topix declined 0.23 percent to finish its trading day at 1,617.20. Shares of robot maker Fanuc slipped 1.29 percent.

In South Korea, the Kospi fell 0.27 percent to close at 2,226.60 as shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics slipped 1.27 percent.

Australia' fell 0.94 percent as the energy sector declined 0.55 percent. Oil shares Down Under mostly fell after crude dropped more than 3 percent on Monday following a tweet from Trump to OPEC that prices were "getting too high." Santos declined 2.55 percent and Woodside Petroleum slipped 0.2 percent while Beach Energy rose 0.49 percent.

Following Monday's slump, oil prices struggled for gains on Tuesday afternoon during Asian trading hours. The international benchmark Brent crude futures contract slipped fractionally to $64.74 per barrel. U.S. crude futures declined 0.31 percent to $55.31 per barrel.

Indian shares declined amid an escalation of tension between New Delhi and Islamabad on Tuesday. Indian jets conducted air strikes against a militant camp in Pakistani territory according to government officials. The Nifty 50 declined about 0.3 percent while the weakened around 0.4 percent to 71.0810 against the U.S. dollar.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.399 after seeing highs around 96.6 yesterday.

The Japanese , considered a safe-haven currency, traded at 110.81 against the dollar after seeing an earlier low of 111.08. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7154 after touching an earlier low of $0.7148.

Powell goes to Capitol Hill

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 60.14 points to close at 26,091.95 while the added 0.1 percent to finish its trading day at 2,796.11. The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.36 percent to close at 7,554.46.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is headed to Capitol Hill later today to testify before Congress.

Market participants are looking for clues on the Fed's next moves during Powell's appearance, when he will provide prepared remarks followed by question-and-answer sessions. They will be looking for: a commitment to a go-slow approach to future rate hikes, an acknowledgement of the challenges balance sheet reduction poses, and the economic outlook in view of renewed chatter from Fed executives about the weak pace of inflation amid a global growth slowdown.

"We do not expect Powell to rule out further rate hikes, though we expect him to suggest higher than expected inflation would be needed to re‑start hikes," Joseph Capurso, senior currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said in a morning note.

"We also expect Powell to confirm the FOMC will announce a plan to stabilise their balance sheet in coming months. We do not expect Powell's comments to induce a large reaction by the (dollar)," Capurso said.

— Reuters and CNBC's Fred Imbert and Jeff Cox contributed to this report.