Stocks drop as Trump's Latin American tariffs revive trade angst

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© Reuters. An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai© Reuters. An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Asian shares skidded on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump stunned markets with tariffs against Brazil and Argentina, recharging fears about global trade tensions, while weak U.S. factory data added to the investor gloom.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.45% in early trade, with Australian shares dropping nearly 2%, on track for their worst day in two months. Japan’s shed 1.1%.

In tweets on Monday, Trump said he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina, attacking what he saw as both countries’ “massive devaluation of their currencies.”

Contrary to his remarks, both Brazil and Argentina have been trying to strengthen their respective currencies against the dollar.

Steven Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec in Sydney, said while the South American tariffs dominated market worries on Tuesday, China’s response to U.S. supporting for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong has also chilled sentiment.

“Markets are extremely sensitive to any good or bad news on the U.S.-China dispute front, but also the U.S. relationship with other nations as well,” he said.

China said on Monday U.S. military ships and aircraft won’t be allowed to visit Hong Kong, and also announced sanctions against several U.S. non-government organizations for encouraging protesters to “engage in extremist, violent and criminal acts.”

Worsening the mood, data from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) showed the U.S. manufacturing sector contracted for a fourth straight month in November as new orders slid.

That erased the market cheer from upbeat Chinese factory surveys released over the past few days.

Bearish sentiment pushed bond prices higher. The yield on benchmark fell to 1.8172% from a U.S. close of 1.836% on Monday, and the policy-sensitive two-year yield, dipped to 1.606% from its U.S. close of 1.614%.

In currency markets, the dollar rose 0.06% against the yen to 109.04 and the euro was a touch lower at $1.1075.

The , which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was at 97.856.

Oil prices continued to rise on expectations that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies may agree to deepen output cuts at a meeting this week.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 0.25% to $56.10 a barrel.

Gold was flat on the spot market, trading at $1,462.21 per ounce.

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