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Asia shares turn sluggish ahead of Trump speech

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By Reuters
Asia shares turn sluggish ahead of Trump speech
FILE PHOTO: A man is reflected on an electronic board showing a graph analyzing recent change of Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon   -   Copyright  KIM KYUNG-HOON(Reuters)

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian share markets got off to a sluggish start on Tuesday amid uncertainty over both the Sino-U.S. trade talks and the domestic political situation in Hong Kong.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> eased 0.05%, following a sharp 1.2% pullback on Monday.

Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> dithered either side of flat, while South Korean stocks <.KS11> inched up 0.3%. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 <ESc1> was off 0.1% in quiet trade.

Caution ruled ahead of a speech by U.S. President Donald Trump to the Economic Club of New York later in the day in case there was any new word on the Sino-U.S. Phase one trade deal.

Trump wrongfooted markets over the weekend when he said there had been incorrect reporting about U.S. willingness to lift tariffs on China.

On a more positive note, Politico reported Trump would announce this week that he is delaying a decision on whether to slap tariffs on imported European Union autos for another six months.

Investors were also eyeing the situation in Hong Kong after a violent escalation of protests knocked nearly 2% off Asia-exposed banks HSBC <HSBA.L> and StanChart <STAN.L>.

A partial holiday in the United States closed the Treasury market on Monday and made for a quiet session on Wall Street. The Dow <.DJI> ended up 0.04%, while the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 0.20% and the Nasdaq <.IXIC> 0.13%.

Shares of Boeing Co <BA.N> jumped 4.5% after saying it expected U.S. regulators to approve the return to commercial service of its grounded 737 MAX jet in the coming weeks, and expects commercial service to resume in January.

In currency markets, the main action was in sterling which hit a six-month high on the euro after the Brexit Party said it would not contest previously Conservative held seats in the UK election.

In a significant boost for Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the Dec. 12 election, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he did not want anti-Brexit parties to win, so was standing down candidates in seats won by the Conservatives in 2017.

The pound reached 0.8582 per euro <EURGBP=>, and firmed to $1.2864 <GBP=> having risen 0.6% overnight.

The dollar also eased back elsewhere, dipping to 98.210 on a basket of currencies <.DXY>.

The euro edged up to $1.1035 <EUR=> and away from a three-week low of $1.1015, while the dollar faded to 109.02 yen <JPY=>.

Spot gold suffered a third day of declines, to touch its lowest since early August at $1,447.89 per ounce <XAU=>.

Oil prices edged lower as the lack of progress on U.S.-China trade negotiations kept prices pressured, though bullish inventory data offered some support. [O/R]

U.S. crude <CLc1> lost 22 cents to $56.64 a barrel, while Brent crude <LCOc1> futures were yet to trade.

(Editing by Sam Holmes)