Asia Markets

Asia stocks decline as Trump threatens higher tariffs if China doesn't strike a deal

Key Points
  • Asia stocks declined on Wednesday.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to raise tariffs on Chinese goods if the two economic powerhouses do not strike a deal.
  • Markets have been on edge for much of the trading week as investors seek clarity on the state of U.S.-China trade negotiations as a Dec. 15 deadline approaches. A tariff hike on Chinese exports to the U.S. is set to kick in on that date.
  • The People's Bank of China released its new loan prime rates earlier on Wednesday. The 1-year and 5-year loan prime rates were cut by 0.05% each from a month earlier to 4.15% and 4.8%, respectively.

Asia stocks declined on Wednesday as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to raise tariffs on Chinese goods if the two economic powerhouses do not strike a deal.

Mainland Chinese stocks ended the day lower, with the Shanghai composite down 0.78% to 2,911.05 and the Shenzhen component shedding 0.82% to 9,809.05. The Shenzhen composite was around 0.707% lower at 1,635.16. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slipped about 0.73%, as of its final hour of trading.

The People's Bank of China released its new loan prime rates earlier on Wednesday. The 1-year and 5-year loan prime rates were cut by 0.05% each from a month earlier to 4.15% and 4.8%, respectively.

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.62% to close at 23,148.57 while the Topix index shed 0.33% to 1,691.11. On Wednesday, Japanese merchandise trade data for October from the Ministry of Finance showed exports for the month fell 9.2% year-on-year — well off the 7.6% year-on-year decline expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia declined 1.35% to close at 6,722.40 as the heavily-weighted financial subindex fell 2.15%. Shares of Australia's so-called Big Four banks declined: Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 1.33%, Westpac dropped 3.31%, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group shed 2.05% and National Australia Bank slipped 3.12%.

The moves in the sector came after Australia's anti money-laundering and terrorism financing regulator filed for civil penalty orders against Westpac.

"It is alleged that Westpac's oversight of the banking and designated services provided through its correspondent banking relationships was deficient," the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) said in a media release.

South Korea's Kospi shed 1.3% to close at 2,125.32 as shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics and chipmaker SK Hynix dropped 2.8% and 3.05%, respectively.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.66% lower.

Markets have been on edge for much of the trading week as investors seek clarity on the state of U.S.-China trade negotiations as a Dec. 15 deadline approaches. A tariff hike on Chinese exports to the U.S. is set to kick in on that date.

Trump said Tuesday he would "just raise the tariffs even higher" on Chinese goods if a deal between Washington and Beijing is not reached. CNBC reported earlier in the week, citing a government source, that China is pessimistic about the trade deal. That is reportedly due to differing views on the cancellation of tariffs.

The developments came following a recent wave of optimism after Trump said a "phase one" trade deal would get signed sometime in November.

"We're optimistic a phase one deal does get done," Gokul Laroia, co-CEO of Asia Pacific at Morgan Stanley, told CNBC on Wednesday.

"If a deal gets done, we're pretty positive on the near-term prospects for both the macro and the markets," Laroia said Wednesday at the Morgan Stanley APAC Summit. "The most important factor influencing that is, a deal coupled with policy is much more impactful."

"The effectiveness of (policy), whether it's monetary or fiscal, is a lot lower when you don't have a trade deal done and when you have an inherent amount of uncertainty hanging over the corporate world, not just in Asia, but globally," he added.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.909 after seeing an earlier low of 97.848.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.53 per dollar after touching lows around 108.8 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6816 after rising from levels around $0.679 in the previous trading day.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures slipping 0.23% to $60.77 per barrel. U.S. crude futures declined about 0.1% to $55.16 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.