Asia Markets

Asia stocks mostly lower as investors digest US-China trade developments

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia were mostly lower on Friday as investors digested recent developments on the U.S.-China trade front.
  • Gao Feng, a ministry spokesperson for China's Commerce Ministry, said Thursday that Beijing and Washington had agreed to simultaneously cancel some existing tariffs on one another's goods, according to the country's state broadcaster.
  • A U.S. official also said both sides agreed to the tariffs rollback, according to Reuters. Still, the outlet also reported the plan faces fierce internal opposition in the White House.

Shares in Asia were mostly lower on Friday as investors digested recent developments on the U.S.-China trade front.

Mainland Chinese shares shed earlier gains to slip on the day. The Shanghai composite declined 0.49% to 2,964.18 and the Shenzhen component dipped 0.22% to 9,895.34. The Shenzhen composite also slipped 0.187% to approximately 1,648.68.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 0.84%, as of its final hour of trading, with shares of Chinese tech behemoth Tencent falling 2.04%.

China's exports and imports declined less than expected in October, Reuters reported citing data from the country's customs.

In dollar terms, exports fell 0.9% while imports fell 6.4% from a year ago in October, though those declines were less than analysts' forecasts. Economists polled by Reuters had expected October exports to fall 3.9% and imports to fall 8.9% from a year earlier.

South Korea's Kospi declined 0.33% to close at 2,137.23, with shares of chipmaker SK Hynix falling 1.56%. Shares in Australia also traded lower as the S&P/ASX 200 finished its trading day just below the flatline at 6,724.10.

Japanese shares bucked the overall trend regionally as the Nikkei 225 gained 0.26% to close at 23,391.87 as shares of index heavyweight and conglomerate Softbank Group jumped 2.79%. The Topix index also rose 0.27% to end its trading day at 1,702.77.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index shed 0.45%.

US-China trade watch

U.S.-China trade sentiment got a boost on Thursday, as Gao Feng, a spokesperson for China's Commerce Ministry, said both sides had agreed to simultaneously cancel some existing tariffs on one another's goods, according to the country's state broadcaster. The ministry spokesperson said both sides were closer to a so-called "phase one" trade agreement following constructive negotiations over the past two weeks.

A U.S. official also said both sides agreed to the tariffs rollback, according to Reuters. Still, the outlet also reported the plan faces fierce internal opposition in the White House.

"The elevation of discussion from a trade truce to a possible tariff rollback is important and suggests both China and the US have come under pressure to seal a deal," Tapas Strickland, director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note.

Still, one strategist said sentiment was unlikely to get a significant boost on those developments.

"Even if you do get a U.S.-China trade deal that includes tariff rollbacks ... that's not necessarily gonna be enough to ... revive the global (capital expenditure) cycle," Jonathan Cavenagh, executive director and head of emerging markets Asia foreign exchange strategy at J.P. Morgan, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Friday.

"if you're a business and you're thinking about where you're gonna be in the next three to five years ... you're still gonna be thinking very carefully about how U.S.-China relations are gonna unfold and what that's gonna mean for the global supply chain," Cavenagh said.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow jumped 182.24 points to close at 27,674.80 while the S&P 500 rose 0.3% to finish its trading day stateside at 3,085.18. The Nasdaq Composite closed 0.3% higher at 8,434.52.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note also saw its biggest upward move overnight since the day U.S. President Donald Trump was elected. Bond prices move inversely to prices. The yield on the 10-year Treasury was last at 1.9034%.

Currencies and oil

The People's Bank of China on Friday set its daily midpoint fix stronger than 7 yuan per dollar for the first since since early August. Every morning, the Chinese central bank sets a midpoint for the yuan on the mainland. Also known as the onshore yuan, the currency is allowed to trade within a narrow band of 2% above or below the day's midpoint rate.

The currency has been watched in recent days after it strengthened past the 7 yuan per dollar mark earlier this week.

The onshore yuan last traded at 6.9792 against the greenback, while its offshore counterpart was at 6.9773 per dollar.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 98.151 after rising from levels below 97.6 seen earlier in the week.

The Japanese yen, widely viewed as a safe-haven currency in times of market uncertainty, traded at 109.29 against the dollar after weakening from levels below 109 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6881 after seeing an earlier high of $0.6906.

Oil prices slipped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures declining 0.67% to $61.87 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also shed 0.87% to $56.65 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert and Huileng Tan contributed to this report.