Asia Markets

Asia Pacific markets trade mostly higher but investors remain cautious over U.S.-China tensions

Key Points
  • Asia Pacific markets traded mostly higher on Monday but investors remained cautious over heightened U.S.-China tensions in recent weeks. 
  • U.S.-China tensions rose last week after President Trump issued executive orders that are set to ban American use of WeChat and TikTok, taking effect from the middle of next month.
  • Following that, the Trump administration said it will impose a fresh round of sanctions on 11 individuals, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam. 
Vehicles are reflected in a window as electronic boards display stock information at the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX.
Lisa Maree | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Asia Pacific markets traded mostly higher on Monday but investors remained cautious over heightened U.S.-China tensions in recent weeks. 

South Korea's Kospi index gained 1.48% to 2,386.38 as shares of automakers surged. Hyundai Motor added 15.65% while Kia Motors gained 9.7%. 

Hyundai shares jumped as the automaker said three new battery electric vehicle models will be launched over the next four years, with more to follow, under its Ioniq brand. Hyundai said it plans to become the world's third-largest electric vehicle maker by 2025

Some of the big technology names also advanced. Samsung Electronics shares rose 0.52%, trimming some of its earlier gains of around 1.39%. SK Hynix shares rose 0.99% while LG Electronics gained 11.01%.  

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 rose 1.76% to 6,110.20, with all sectors finishing higher. The heavily weighted financials subindex was up 2.6% as major banks advanced. 

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7154 as of 3:14 p.m. HK/SIN, retreating from an earlier high of $0.7172. 

Australia is tackling a fresh wave of coronavirus outbreak in Victoria state, which accounts for the majority of reported cases and deaths in the country. In an effort to slow the spread of infection, the state has imposed strict lockdown measures limiting people's movements and closed large parts of the economy. 

Chinese mainland markets reversed earlier losses to advance: The Shanghai composite rose 0.75% to 3,379.25, the Shenzhen component index was fractionally higher at 13,657.31 and the Shenzhen composite was up 0.2% to 2,277.42. 

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index retraced earlier losses of more than 1% to trade down 0.6%. The technology-focused Hang Seng Tech Index fell 2.89%. 

Markets in Japan are closed Monday for a public holiday. 

U.S.-China tensions

U.S. President Donald Trump last week issued executive orders that are set to ban American use of WeChat and TikTok, taking effect from the middle of next month.

Following that, the Trump administration said it will impose a fresh round of sanctions on 11 individuals, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam for her role in overseeing and "implementing Beijing's policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes."

Administration officials have also urged Trump to delist Chinese firms that trade on U.S. exchanges and fail to meet U.S. auditing requirements by Jan. 2022, Reuters reported last week

"The bigger question for markets is whether these actions jeopardise the US-China trade talks on August 15 and markets will be looking closely for any Chinese retaliation," Tapas Strickland, director for economics and markets at the National Australia Bank, wrote in a Monday morning note. 

Officials from both sides are set to review the implementation of their phase one trade deal and are likely to air mutual grievances during an Aug. 15 video conference, Reuters reported last week, citing two sources familiar with the plans. 

"The running assumption in markets has been President Trump needed the phase one deal to succeed (as much as China) this side of the November elections to secure the mid-West. At the same time President Trump is running a hard China line into the elections," Strickland added. 

U.S. futures traded mixed early Monday morning ET after the president signed several executive orders aimed at extending coronavirus relief — infection cases in the U.S. topped 5 million.

The U.S. dollar traded at 93.480 against a basket of its peers as of 3:18 p.m. HK/SIN, climbing from an earlier low around 93.296. 

Oil prices rose Monday during Asian hours. U.S. crude added 1.24% to $41.73 per barrel while global benchmark Brent was up 0.81% to $44.76.