HONG KONG: Asian markets edged down as profit-takers stepped in following a recent run-up, while the pound maintained gains on hopes Britain will avoid crashing out of the European Union. While there were few catalysts to drive business and Wall Street was closed for a holiday investors are keeping tabs on developments in various issues including the US government shutdown, Brexit and China’s stuttering economy.
The optimism surrounding China-US trade talks was jolted by a Bloomberg News report that said the two sides were struggling to reach agreement on the crucial matter of intellectual property, which is a key source of anger in Washington. While headlines regarding talks earlier this month were upbeat, and eyes turn to another meeting including China’s top negotiator Liu He at the end of January, the Bloomberg story, referencing unnamed sources, provided a reality check.
In early trade Hong Kong and Shanghai each dipped 0.5 percent, while Tokyo went into the break 0.1 percent lower. Sydney also slipped 0.5 percent, Singapore shed 0.2 percent and Seoul was 0.4 percent lower while Wellington and Taipei were also well down. Concerns about the outlook led the International Monetary Fund to lower its growth forecasts for the global economy, citing the trade row, Brexit and other problems.
On currency markets the pound edged up slightly against the dollar, having bounced on Monday after British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would try to hammer out changes to her Brexit deal that was roundly rejected by MPs last week. While there is no plan in place to leave the EU on March 29, markets are confident lawmakers will avoid a damaging no-deal Brexit, with options being touted being a delay to the leaving date and another referendum.—AFP