Asia Inc second-quarter profits grow at slowest pace in nearly 2 years as trade tensions rise

(Reuters) – Asian companies posted their lowest profit growth in nearly two years in the June quarter and earnings are likely to come under further pressure, weighed down by the escalating U.S.-China trade war and high currency volatility, Reuters analyses showed.

FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are seen at the port in Shanghai, China April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

An analysis of about 4,000 Asian companies excluding Japan showed their combined net profit rose 12.98 percent in the June quarter, easing for the third straight quarter and the slowest pace of expansion the September quarter of 2016.

More pressure is building, with analysts slashing their forecasts for the current fiscal year by 5 percent on average over the last 90 days, a separate analysis of more than 15,000 firms showed.

In the same period, analysts have cut down their third-quarter earnings forecasts by 4.9 percent.

Asian firms’ profit growth by country:

China Inc, which has the biggest weighting with over 4,000 firms in the survey, saw profit forecasts slashed by 7.3 percent for the current fiscal year.

By sector, the technology industry is one of the biggest losers, as Washington is set to impose tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods that would make imported computer parts and intermediary products manufactured across Asia more expensive.

Asian firms’ profit growth by sectors:

U.S. President Donald Trump warned last week that he was ready to slap tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports into the United States, threatening duties on a further $267 billion of goods that include mobile phones, the biggest U.S. import from China.

Profit estimates for electronic equipment and parts industry were slashed by 9.68 percent over the last 90 days, while forecasts for communications & networking segment were cut by 21.84 percent.

Asian firms’ estimated profit growth in this fiscal year:

“We are concerned by the impacts (of tariffs), either through the currency or through a more direct impact of lower level of exports. On the latter, the technology sector is more at risk,” said Frank Benzimra, head of Asia equity strategy at Societe Generale.

While a stellar earnings performance propelled Asian equities to a decade high last year, slowing profit growth and growing uncertainties over trade have undermined regional markets this year.

The MSCI Asia-ex-Japan index .MIAPJ0000PU is down about 10 percent this year and hit a more than one-year low on Wednesday. The index’s forward price-to-earnings ratio fell to 12.04 at the end of August from a high of 13.6 in January.

Asian companies’ valuations:

Reporting By Patturaja Murugaboopathy; Editing by Miyoung Kim

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