Asia-Pacific markets mostly declined Thursday as investors kept an eye on Brexit trade talks as well as ongoing negotiations in the U.S. for a coronavirus relief package. The Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 0.39% after market open while the Topix index dropped 0.18%. South Korea’s Kospi index erased earlier losses of more than 1% to trade fractionally lower.
In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 fell 0.6%, with most sectors in the red. The energy subindex retraced some of its losses but still traded down 0.72% as oil stocks struggled for gains. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 0.49%. Chinese mainland markets also struggled for gains as the Shanghai comoposite and the Shenzhen composite were near flat while the Shenzhen component lost 0.15%.
The session in Asia-Pacific follows overnight declines on Wall Street. U.S. stock futures were little changed after market close. A three-hour meeting between U.K. and European Union leaders on Wednesday evening failed to break an impasse in Brexit trade talks. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed that a firm decision should be made by Sunday about the future of the talks, media reports said citing a senior Downing Street source.
The U.K. left the EU in January but agreed to keep the same standards and regulations until the end of the year. That was intended for both sides to have time to develop new trading arrangements. The transition period is due to end in three weeks and there are growing concerns that a new agreement may not be ready by then.
The British pound fell 0.22% to $1.3366 on Thursday during Asian trading hours while the euro was flat at $1.2081. Across the pond, negotiations for a coronavirus relief bill continued in the U.S. as the Covid-19 crisis worsens in the country. Still, investor sentiment in recent days has improved on the back of Pfizer’s vaccine rollout in the U.K.
The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of its peers, traded near flat at 91.081. The Japanese yen changed hands at 104.35 per dollar, weakening from an earlier level around 104.18. Elsewhere, the Australian dollar strengthened 0.19% to $0.7459. Oil prices rose on Thursday during Asian trading hours. U.S. crude was up 0.55% at $45.77 a barrel. Global benchmark Brent gained 0.49% to $49.10.