Asia Markets

Asia stocks mixed amid US-China trade uncertainty

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia were mixed on Tuesday amid concerns over the state of U.S.-China trade negotiations.
  • CNBC's Eunice Yoon reported Monday, citing a government source, that Beijing is pessimistic about the trade deal.

Stocks in Asia were mixed on Tuesday amid concerns over the state of U.S.-China trade negotiations.

Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 0.53% to close at 23,292.65, with shares of index heavyweight and robot maker Fanuc dropping 1.49%. The Topix index also declined 0.23% to end its trading day at 1,696.73. In South Korea, the Kospi closed 0.34% lower at 2,153.24.

Mainland Chinese stocks were higher on the day. The Shenzhen component advanced 1.8% to 9,889.75 while the Shanghai composite was 0.85% higher at around 2,933.99. The Shenzhen composite gained 1.831% to about 1,646.80.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 1.38%, as of its final hour of trading, with shares of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing surging beyond 2%.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia advanced 0.7% to close at 6,814.20. Minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) November meeting, where the central bank had kept the cash rate unchanged at 0.75%, were released earlier on Tuesday.

"The Board agreed that a case could be made to ease monetary policy at this meeting, but that the most appropriate approach would be to maintain the current stance of monetary policy and to make another full assessment once more evidence of the effects of the earlier monetary easing had become available," the minutes said.

The RBA Board also "discussed the possibility that a further reduction in interest rates could have a different effect on confidence than in the past, when interest rates were at higher levels." The Australian central bank has cut interest rates three times so far in 2019.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.48% higher.

US-China trade worries

Investor reaction to overnight developments around U.S.-China trade talks will be watched. CNBC's Eunice Yoon reported Monday, citing a government source, that Beijing is pessimistic about the trade deal. China is concerned after U.S. President Donald Trump said there would be no tariff rollback, Beijing had thought both parties had agreed in principle, Yoon reported.

That came following a report over the weekend by Chinese state media that "constructive" trade talks had occurred at a high level between Beijing and Washington. The two economic powerhouses have been working toward reaching a "phase one" deal, expected to be signed soon, following a tariff war that has lasted for more than a year and dented investor sentiment.

"Our preference remains on putting more weight on comments coming directly from officials dealing with the trade negotiations and on this score there is nothing to contradict the view that the US and China are still working towards striking a deal," Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note.

"I think the reality of this, if we sort of look at it at the moment, is there's political pressures I think on both sides,"

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.756, following a decline in recent days from levels around 98.4.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.63 against the dollar after strengthening from levels above 108.8 in the previous session. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6798 following highs above $0.681 seen yesterday.

Oil prices declined in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures shedding 0.18% to $62.33 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also slipped 0.4% to $56.82 per barrel.