Asian shares slide as Trump raises specter of longer trade war

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By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian shares extended their losses on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump said a trade deal with China might have to wait until after the 2020 presidential election, dashing market hopes for a quick preliminary agreement.

Investors turned to safe-haven assets, boosting bond prices and sending gold to a one-month high, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan () fell 0.4%.

Japan’s Nikkei () dropped 1% in early trade. Australia’s S&P/ASX200 () was down 1.6%, having shed almost 4% since closing on Monday.

The yield on benchmark U.S. 10-year () treasuries fell as low as 1.6930% overnight, the sharpest fall since May. It stood at 1.7242% on Wednesday.

“Suddenly you can feel the market,” said Sean Taylor, chief investment officer for Asia-Pacific at German asset management firm DWS, calling trade the top threat to the global outlook.

“It just takes one or two comments and then a bad feeling again,” he said. “It’s still quite uncertain.”

Trump had told reporters in London that there is “no deadline” for an agreement with China to end the tit-for-tat tariff war that has hurt global growth.

“In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal,” Trump told reporters in London.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said no high-level meetings are scheduled and the parties still needed to sort out details about Chinese purchases of U.S. farm products and an enforcement mechanism.

If there is no deal or substantial progress before Dec. 15, tariffs on remaining Chinese imports, including cell phones, laptop computers and toys, will take effect, Ross said.


A wave of selling on Wall Street followed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average () shedding a percentage point, the Nasdaq () half a percentage point and the S&P 500 () 0.66%.

“As if we needed a reminder, the market remains incredibly sensitive to trade developments,” said RBC Capital Markets’ Chief US Economist, Tom Porcelli. “The lack of urgency to cut a deal was presented today as very real.”

In currency markets China’s yuan took a beating and there was a flight to the safe-haven Japanese yen and to the Swiss franc, which held just under a one-month high on Wednesday.

However the trade-exposed Australian and New Zealand dollars mostly held on to gains won against the greenback after disappointing manufacturing data weakened the U.S. currency on Monday.

“It might be that apart from the global risky stuff, the market is thinking about the U.S. economy maybe slowing,” said Westpac FX analyst Imre Speizer.

“They’re pricing a little bit more in for Fed cuts.”

The dollar last traded for 108.65 yen , while a euro bought $1.1081 () and the $0.6850 .

Gold was steady at $1,477.20 per ounce.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude () steadied to gain 0.61% to $56.44 per barrel, after sliding following Trump’s comments.