Asian Markets Mostly Lower On Trade War Fears

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Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Friday following the weak cues overnight from Wall Street after Bloomberg reported that U.S. President Donald Trump intends to move ahead with plans to impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports.

Trump has also threatened to pull the U.S. out of the World Trade Organization if the international trading group does not "shape up". In addition, the sell-off in emerging market currencies also dampened investor sentiment.

The Australian market is declining following the negative cues from Wall Street. Weak iron ore and gold prices also weighed on mining stocks.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 11.70 points or 0.18 percent to 6,340.10, off a low of 6,338.20. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 12.20 points or 0.19 percent to 6,448.30.

In the mining space, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are losing more than 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is up 0.4 percent after a more than 2 percent fall in iron ore prices.

Gold miners are also weak after gold prices extended losses to a third straight session overnight. Newcrest Mining is declining more than 1 percent and Evolution Mining is losing almost 2 percent.

In the banking sector, Westpac, Commonwealth, National Australia Bank and ANZ Banking are higher in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent.

Oil stocks are mostly higher after crude oil prices rose to a seven-week high overnight. Santos is advancing almost 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.3 percent, while Oil Search is down 0.2 percent.

Transurban has won a bid for Sydney's WestConnex motorway and a consortium led by the company will pay A$9.26 billion for a 51 percent controlling stake in the project. The toll road operator's shares are in a trading halt ahead of a A$4.8 billion capital raise.

Reece reported a 6 percent increase in full-year profit, while revenues grew almost 11 percent. The plumbing group's shares are down almost 1 percent.

Harvey Norman reported a 16 percent decrease in full-year profit, while revenue rose almost 9 percent. Shares of the furniture and electrical goods retailer are lower by almost 2 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will release July numbers for private sector credit today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at US$0.7247, up from US$0.7288 on Thursday.

The Japanese market has pared initial losses and is modestly lower following the weak cues from Wall Street and as investors digested a raft of local economic data, including data that showed Japan's industrial output fell for a third straight month in July. Additionally, a stronger yen weighed on exporters' stocks.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 28.30 points or 0.12 percent to 22,841.20, after touching a low of 22,678.03 in early trades.

Among the major exporters, Panasonic is declining more than 1 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is losing 0.7 percent and Canon is down 0.3 percent on a stronger yen. Sony is adding 0.2 percent.

In the auto space, Toyota is losing almost 1 percent and Honda is lower by more than 1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is declining almost 2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is lower by more than 1 percent.

Among oil stocks, Inpex is declining 0.7 percent, while Japan Petroleum is advancing more than 1 percent after crude oil prices rose to a seven-week high overnight.

Among the major losers, Yamaha Corp. and Furukawa Co. are lower by more than 3 percent each, while Dowa Holdings and Unitika are declining almost 3 percent each.

In economic news, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in Friday's preliminary reading that industrial production in Japan dipped a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent on month in July. That missed forecast for a gain of 0.2 percent following the 1.8 percent drop in June.

The unemployment rate in Japan came in at a seasonally adjusted 2.5 percent in July, beating expectations for 2.4 percent, which would have been unchanged from the June reading.

Overall consumer prices in the Tokyo region climbed 1.2 percent on year in August, topping forecasts for 1.0 percent and up from 0.9 percent in July. Core CPI, which excludes food prices, gained 0.9 percent on year - topping forecasts for 0.8 percent, which would have been unchanged.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 110 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Indonesia and Hong Kong are losing more than 1 percent each, while New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan are also lower. Shanghai and South Korea are edging higher. Malaysia is closed for the National Day holiday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Thursday after a report from Bloomberg said President Donald Trump intends to move ahead with plans to impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports as early as next week. Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg said Trump intends to impose the tariffs after a public comment period ends next Thursday, September 6.

The Dow slid 137.65 points or 0.5 percent to 25,986.92, the Nasdaq fell 21.32 points or 0.3 percent to 8,088.36 and the S&P 500 dropped 12.91 points or 0.4 percent to 2,901.13.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.6 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index dropped by 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures ended Thursday at its highest level in over seven weeks, amid signs of supply shortage in the market after recent data showed a drop in U.S. crude inventories. WTI crude for October delivery added $0.74 or 1.1 percent to close at $70.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.