Asian stocks sank Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened more tariff hikes on Chinese imports if talks aimed at ending a trade war fail to produce an interim agreement.
Market benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia all declined.
Trump said Tuesday that agreement on the “Phase 1” deal announced last month “could happen soon.” But he warned he was ready to raise tariffs on Chinese imports “very substantially” if that fails.
Talks appear to be hung up on Chinese pressure for Washington to roll back some of its punitive tariffs imposed in the fight over Beijing’s trade surplus and technology ambitions. The Chinese government said last week negotiators had agreed, but Trump denied that.
Trump’s comments “served as a reminder of the challenge that the two sides face,” said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report. However, she said, investors saw them as “positioning statements,” reducing their impact.
The comments did little to jolt Wall Street, which closed with modest gains.
The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.2% to 2,908.63 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 sank 0.9% to 23,303.13. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng tumbled 1.9% to 26,549.
Seoul’s Kospi retreated 0.8% to 2,124.68 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 was 0.6% lower at 6,715.70. Taiwan, New Zealand and Singapore also declined.
Hong Kong shares have been jolted by an escalation in violence in five-month-old anti-government protests. A protester was shot Monday and others blocked streets and commuter rail tracks and set off gasoline bombs at the University of Hong Kong.
The protests began in June over a proposed extradition law and have grown to include demands for greater democracy and other grievances. Already under pressure from weak global demand and the U.S.-China tariff war, Hong Kong has tumbled into its first recession in a decade.
On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index rose past the 3,100 level for the first time but the gains didn’t hold. The index ended up 0.2% at 3,091.84.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed unchanged at 27,691.49. The Nasdaq gained 0.3% to a record 8,486.09.
Momentum for the market has been mostly upward for more than five weeks as worries about the U.S.-China trade war have eased, among other factors.
Health care, technology and communication services stocks led gains Tuesday, outweighing losses in energy companies and elsewhere.
This week, the U.S. Labor Department is due to give updates on consumer and wholesale inflation. Economists expect a government report to show retail sales returned to growth in October.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is due to give testimony to Congress on Wednesday about the U.S. economy. Most investors expect the Fed to keep interest rates on hold for now after cutting them three times since the summer.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 6 cents to $56.74 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 6 cents on Tuesday to close at $56.80. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 10 cents to $61.96 per barrel in London. It retreated 12 cents to $62.06 the previous session.
CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 109.06 yen from Tuesday’s 109.01 yen. The euro advanced to $1.1013 from $1.1010.