Asian shares wobbled on Friday as investors braced for U.S. tariffs against China, while the Euro flirted with two-week lows after a cautious European Central Bank indicated it would not raise interest rates for some time. U.S. President Donald Trump has made up his mind to impose “pretty significant” tariffs and will unveil a list targeting US$ 50 billion of Chinese goods on Friday, an administration official said. Beijing has warned that it was ready to respond.
While it is not clear when Trump will activate the measures, rising Sino-U.S. trade tensions will put additional pressure on China’s economy, which is starting to show signs of cooling under the weight of a multi-year crackdown on riskier lending.
Analysts said that although the expected announcement would likely not be a total surprise to markets — an initial list was released by Washington a few months ago — it would still make investors concerned that the window for averting a trade war may be closing.
The Asia Pacific MSCI index ex-Japan edged down 0.3%, with many regional markets shrugging off a strong close on Wall Street. But Japan’s Nikkei average and Australian shares advanced 0.3% and 1.2%, respectively.
The Euro was headed for its worst weekly loss in 19 months after the ECB signaled on Thursday it will keep interest rates at record lows into at least mid-2019, even as it pledged to end its massive bond purchase scheme by the end of this year.
The dollar index against a basket of six major peers gained about 0.2% to 94.996, its highest level in 2-1/2-weeks, after rallying more than 1% the previous day. The 10-year German bund yield also fell to 0.424% from around 0.50% before the ECB statement.
On Wall Street, two of the three main indexes closed higher, with technology stocks leading the charge on the benchmark S&P 500. Helping boost U.S. equities was a Commerce Department report showing retail sales rose more than expected in May, the latest indication of an acceleration in economic growth in the second quarter.
While the Fed and the ECB provided much of the week’s central bank fireworks, the Bank of Japan produced no surprises at the end of a two-day policy meeting on Friday and looked set to continue its massive asset buying program for some time.
Oil prices were little changed as investors eyed a key OPEC meeting in Vienna. Saudi Arabia and Russia, architects of a producer deal to cut output, have indicated they want production to rise.