US-China trade war fears intensify

15 March, 2018

Asian equity markets were mixed on Thursday as demand for risky assets continued to dampen on concerns that the world’s two biggest economies could soon start a trade war.

President Donald Trump announced his intention to impose tariffs on nearly $60 billion of Chinese imports, with technology and telecommunications sectors as main targets.

The news served as an excuse for investors to pull out from risky assets on fears that China will retaliate and a trade war will officially begin between the two nations.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index was up by 0.16 percent, recovering previous losses, while the broader Topix secured a moderate gain of only 0.05 percent. The Korean Kospi rose 0.13 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced 0.12 percent, with financials leading other sectors higher. However, big names such as HSBC and AIA were down in the session.

The Shanghai composite fell 0.04 percent and the Shenzhen composite eased 0.49 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.18 percent with most sub-indexes trading to the downside.

On Wednesday, the US Commerce Department said retail sales dropped 0.1 percent in February, against a forecasted 0.3 percent build. That figures pushed expectations for first-quarter economic growth down the hill.

In other news, reports said that President Trump is set to chose television commentator and economic analyst Larry Kudlow to take Gary Cohn’s place as his top economic adviser.

Kudlow - who claims to be a free trade advocate - has reportedly taken the position and confirmed he respected Trump's vision on import tariffs for steel and aluminium.

The US dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major currencies, was trading 0.01 percent lower at 89.22 by the time of this writing.

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