Asian shares struggle as trade fears keep investors cautious

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks struggled to gain traction on Friday, following a mixed end to Wall Street trade and as the worsening Sino-U.S. trade dispute kept investors in the region cautious, despite signs of rapprochement between the United States and Europe.

A woman walks in strong wind caused by Typhoon Lan, past an electronic board showing the graphs of the recent movements of Japan’s Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little changed in early trade.

Japan’s Nikkei eked out a 0.3 percent gain though it was capped by worries that the Bank of Japan could scale down its asset purchase at its upcoming policy review next week.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe hit four-month highs on Thursday, with European car maker shares gaining 2.6 percent after the European Union and the United States agreed to negotiate on trade, easing fears of a transatlantic trade war.

U.S. industrial shares also made gains, rising 0.8 percent though the S&P 500 Index dipped 0.30 percent on Thursday, due to a 19 percent dive in Facebook on its earnings showing slowing usage.

While that pushed down the Nasdaq Composite 1.01 percent, other U.S. tech firms held firm, with shares gaining 3.2 percent after market following its stellar earnings.

The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield edged up to 2.9840 percent, its highest level in 1-1/2 months, on receding worries about trade tensions.

Yet Asian shares were more subdued as trade disputes between Washington and Beijing have shown few signs of abating.

“Now that Washington does not need to use its energy to fight with Europe, it could increase pressure on China,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.

The Chinese yuan stayed near its 13-month low touched earlier this week.

The offshore yuan traded at 6.8283 per dollar, near Tuesday’s low of 6.8448.

The Thomson Reuters/HKEX Global CNH index, which tracks the offshore yuan against a basket of currencies on a daily basis, fell to its lowest levels since May last year, having fallen 2.7 percent so far this month.

The euro traded at $1.1641, having fallen 0.73 percent on Thursday after the European Central Bank signaled no change in its timetable to move away from ultra low rates or end its bond purchase program.

The dollar ticked up to 111.22 yen after hitting a low of 110.58 yen the previous day, its lowest level in more than half a month, in part helped by a rise in U.S. yields.

In commodities, oil prices extended their recovery, after Saudi Arabia suspended oil shipments through a strait in the Red Sea following an attack on two oil tankers.

Brent crude futures traded at $74.45 per barrel, down 0.1 percent, though they were up 1.9 percent so far this week.

Editing by Sam Holmes

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