Asian stocks flat as trade woes offset earnings-led Wall Street gains

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks were largely steady on Tuesday, with worries over the U.S.-China trade conflict offsetting support from earnings-led gains on Wall Street.

People walk past an electronic board showing Japan’s Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was almost flat.

Australian stocks dipped 0.2 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 rose 0.05 percent and Japan’s Nikkei .N225 added 0.25 percent.

The three major U.S. stock indexes closed higher on Monday amid a strong U.S. earnings season, with results from Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) impressing and Facebook (FB.O) lifting the Nasdaq .IXIC after a report it was planning new services. [US/]

“Global markets are (being) buffeted by conflicting currents. The bottom-up view of the world from a corporate perspective is positive, led by U.S. companies,” wrote Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

“However, the increasing potential for trade disputes to slow the global economy is restraining investor enthusiasm.”

The dollar drew support as international trade tensions continue. Its index against a basket of six major currencies .DXY rose to a near three-week high of 95.515, before pulling back slightly to 95.347.

Some analysts see trade conflict benefiting the U.S. dollar as the nation’s economy is better placed to handle protectionism than emerging markets, and as tariffs may narrow the U.S. trade deficit.

Weakness in its peers further bolstered the dollar’s strength.

The euro fell to a five-week low of $1.1530 EUR= overnight, weighed down by worries that Italy could ramp up spending and challenge European Union budget regulations and by a drop in June German industrial orders. The single currency last traded at $1.1557.

The pound was also on the back foot, driven on Monday to $1.2920 GBP=D3, its weakest since September 2017, after comments by officials raised fears Britain would crash out of the EU without securing a trade agreement.

The dollar was steady at 111.35 yen JPY= after edging up 0.1 percent overnight.

A big mover was the Turkish lira, which fell to a record low on Monday after Washington said it was reviewing Ankara’s duty-free access to the U.S. market as tensions between the two NATO allies ramped up.

The lira TRYTOM=D3 has lost 27 percent of its value this year, battered primarily by concerns about President Tayyip Erdogan’s drive for greater control over monetary policy.

“Currently the impact of the lira’s slide is mostly contained within the country. But fears of a default will begin to increase if the currency keeps depreciating, and such a development could affect some European financial institutions,” said Kota Hirayama, senior emerging markets economist at SMBC Nikko Securities.

“The Turkish central bank will have to move quickly and raise interest rates to arrest the lira’s fall before it becomes too late.”

In commodities, benchmark Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were down 0.05 percent at $73.71 a barrel. They had gained 0.75 percent on Monday after OPEC sources said Saudi production had unexpectedly fallen in July.

Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Joseph Radford



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