Asian shares regain ground as Trump faces pushback on tariffs

Wednesday, 7 March 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Tokyo (Reuters): Asian shares regained ground on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump faced growing pressure from political allies to pull back from proposed steel and aluminium tariffs, easing investor worries about an imminent trade war.

Sentiment was also supported by receding risk aversion in Europe with the euro gaining support from the creation of a coalition government in Germany and the impact of Italy’s inconclusive election results limited to a mild sell-off in domestic bonds and stocks.

European shares are expected to gain, with financial spreadbetters tipping Britain’s FTSE and France’s Cac to rise 0.5% and Germany’s Dax 0.8%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.5%, snapping five straight days of losses, while Japan’s Nikkei jumped 1.8% from a five-month low. Korean shares have erased all the losses they had taken after Trump’s announcement even though the country is seen as being among the worst affected in region by the tariffs due to its big steel exports to the United States. US S&P500 have also now recouped all the losses incurred after Trump’s tariff plan. Leading Republicans, including House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Representative Kevin Brady, turned up the pressure on Trump to rethink the plan on Monday. “Given the opposition from Republican lawmakers and trading partners, there is speculation that Trump may not be able to force through the plan,” said Soichiro Monji, chief strategist at Daiwa SB Investments.

Some investors also saw the tariffs threats as a U.S. negotiating tactic to get a better deal on NAFTA. Still, uncertainty remains with confusion about the timing and extent of the planned tariffs inside the White House. Trump said on Monday he would not back down. Trump was expected to finalise the planned tariffs later in the week, although some observers familiar with the process said it could occur next week. The spectre of a trade war was not the only source of concern for the stock market. As the global economy steams ahead, investors have become increasingly concerned that US inflation, which has been subdued since the 2008 financial crisis, could finally pick up. While moderate inflation generally supports equity investors, rapid inflation, or fear of it, could prompt the Federal Reserve to hike rates faster, undermining the attraction of equities. 

“Given the importance of bond yields to equity valuation, equity investors are affected by potential changes in bond yields just as much as fixed-income investors,” said Colin Moore, Global Chief Investment Officer at Boston-based Columbia Threadneedle Investments.

“In the current environment, although inflation appears to be increasing, it’s still not likely to cause 10-year yields to rise to levels that would be problematic for equities. I estimate that problematic level to be a 4% yield.”

US bond yields rose as Wall Street shares rallied. The 10-year US Treasuries yield rose back to 2.888% from last week’s low of 2.793%. A break of last month’s peak of 2.957% could trigger fresh selling in Treasuries, traders say.

In the currency market, the euro traded at $ 1.2343, extending its recovery from a seven-week low of $ 1.21545 hit on Thursday.

The euro managed to recover losses made on Monday after two anti-establishment leaders made early plays to govern Italy following an inconclusive election where voters shunted mainstream parties to the sidelines.

As none of the three main factions had enough seats to govern alone, President Sergio Mattarella is expected to open formal coalition talks in April, with early elections possible if no accord is found.

“With any coalition that can be formed likely to have a right of centre bias, this ought to be bad for the euro but the German election result appears to have counterbalanced any detrimental effects. We are holding to our pre-election stance that this is not the time to be adding Italian risk,” said Paul Hatfield, Global Co-Chief Investment Officer at Alcentra, part of BNY Mellon Investment Management.

The dollar fetched 106.41 yen, up 0.2% for the day, crawling back from its 16-month low of 105.24 touched on Friday on improved risk appetite.

The Canadian dollar hit an eight-month low of C$ 1.3002 per US dollar as US President Donald Trump used proposed tariffs on steel and aluminium as a bargaining chip in talks to revamp NAFTA.

The Australian dollar was almost flat at $0.7773 after the Reserve bank of Australia kept its policy on hold as expected.