Reuters | May 20, 2019 12:00
* MSCI Asia ex-Japan +0.6%; China blue-chips drag
* Australian shares surge on shock election result
* Oil up more than 1.4% after Saudi minister comments
* Asian stock markets: https://tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4
By Andrew Galbraith
SHANGHAI, May 20 (Reuters) - Asian shares steadied on Monday
as investors caught their breath following another week of
escalating U.S.-China trade tensions, with sentiment turning
brighter after the United States said it would lift tariffs in
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
.MIAPJ0000PUS added 0.6%, reflecting modest gains in markets
across the region after the broad index finished at its lowest
since Jan. 24 on Friday, down 3% for the week.
Australian shares .AXJO underpinned the market's firmer
mood, jumping 1.7% after the centre-right Liberal National
Coalition pulled off a shock win in federal elections, beating
the left-wing Labor Party.
Election results also look set to lift markets in India.
India's NSE Stock Futures listed in Singapore NIFc1 rose 2.4%
and the rupee INR=D4 strengthened after exit polls showed
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to return to power
with an even bigger majority in parliament. Shares in the trade-sensitive markets of South Korea and
Taiwan also rose. The Taiwan SE Weighted Index .TWII added
0.3% and Seoul's KOSPI .KS11 rose 0.6%.
U.S. S&P 500 e-mini futures ESc1 also turned higher,
rising 0.3% following losses on Wall Street on Friday.
"We've had such a volatile few days in terms of
pronouncements and interpretations of what's going on with this
potential trade war. And I think the news bites that we had over
the weekend seem to indicate a softening of Trump's approach
toward tariffs internationally," said Jim McCafferty, head of
equity research, Asia ex-Japan at Nomura.
The U.S. announced on Friday that it would remove tariffs on
Canadian steel and aluminium, prompting Canada's foreign
minister to vow the quick ratification of a new North American
trade agreement. "I think people might take the view that perhaps a similar
strategy might be applied to Asia," McCafferty said, referring
to the lifting of tariffs.
The cautious optimism failed to lift Chinese blue chips
.CSI300 , which fell 1%.
Japan's Nikkei stock index .N225 added 0.3%, after data
showed growth in the world's third-biggest economy unexpectedly
accelerated in the first quarter. Modest gains on Monday came even as financial markets
remained on edge over the intensifying Sino-U.S. trade war, with
the Trump administration last week adding Huawei Technologies Co
Ltd HWT.UL to a trade blacklist. The repercussions of that move were evident as Alphabet
Inc's GOOGL.O Google suspended business with Huawei that
requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical
services except those publicly available via open source
Google's suspension of business with Huawei "signals that
even though the trade talks are being characterised as being
stalled, when we factor in China saying there is no point (in)
U.S. negotiators coming to Beijing in current circumstances as
they did Friday, then the chance of a G20 deal seem more
remote," Greg McKenna, strategist at McKenna Macro said in a
note to clients.
Noting the festering trade war, continued uncertainty over
Brexit and rising tensions between the United States and Iran,
McKenna said investors are currently "headline trading."
"(It's) too soon to see the economic consequences of the
battle escalating. And so belief can be suspended until that
time," he said.
Rising tensions in the Middle East, which have supported oil
prices, ratcheted up another notch on the weekend as U.S.
President Donald Trump issued new threats, tweeting that a
conflict with Iran would be the "official end" of that country.
But it was comments from Saudi Arabia's energy minister that
had the most immediate effect on crude prices on Monday.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that there was
consensus among the members of the Organization of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries to maintain production cuts to "gently"
reduce inventories. Both U.S. crude CLc1 and Brent crude LCOc1 jumped more
than 1.4% following the minister's comments, with West Texas
Intermediate fetching $63.66 a barrel and Brent crude at $73.27
In currency markets, China's offshore yuan CNH=D3
rebounded after touching its weakest against the dollar since
November on Friday. It was last trading at 6.9351 per dollar.
In onshore trading on Friday, the yuan had weakened past the
psychologically important 6.9 per dollar level to end at its
softest in 19 weeks. However, sources told Reuters the country's
central bank is expected to use foreign exchange intervention
and monetary policy tools to stop it weakening past the
7-per-dollar level in the near term. The People's Bank of China said on Sunday that it would
maintain basic stability of the yuan exchange rate within a
"reasonable and balanced range." The onshore yuan CNY=CFXS strengthened to 6.9081 per
dollar on Monday.
The dollar added 0.12% against the yen to 110.20 JPY= ,
while the euro EUR= was barely changed at $1.1155. The dollar
index .DXY , which tracks the greenback against a basket of six
major rivals, was up a hair's breadth at 98.018.
The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR
rose to 2.4015% compared with a U.S. close of 2.393% on Friday,
while the two-year yield US2YT=RR touched 2.2146%, up from
Friday's U.S. close of 2.202%.
Gold trimmed earlier gains on the modest revival in risk
appetite, easing to $1,276.91 per ounce. GOL/
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Jacqueline Wong)
Written By: Reuters
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