Stocks drop as Trump's Latin American tariffs revive trade angst

Andrew Galbraith, Reuters

Posted at Dec 03 2019 09:33 AM

People sit outside the New York Stock Exchange during the morning commute in New York City. Brendan McDermid, Reuters/file

SHANGHAI -- Asian shares skidded on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump stunned markets with tariffs against Brazil and Argentina, recharging fears about global trade tensions, while weak US factory data added to the investor gloom.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.45 percent in early trade, with Australian shares dropping nearly 2 percent, on track for their worst day in two months. Japan's Nikkei shed 1.1 percent.

In tweets on Monday, Trump said he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Brazil and Argentina, attacking what he saw as both countries' "massive devaluation of their currencies."

Contrary to his remarks, both Brazil and Argentina have been trying to strengthen their respective currencies against the dollar.

Steven Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec in Sydney, said while the South American tariffs dominated market worries on Tuesday, China's response to US supporting for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong has also chilled sentiment.

"Markets are extremely sensitive to any good or bad news on the US-China dispute front, but also the US relationship with other nations as well," he said.

China said on Monday US military ships and aircraft won't be allowed to visit Hong Kong, and also announced sanctions against several US non-government organisations for encouraging protesters to "engage in extremist, violent and criminal acts."

Worsening the mood, data from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) showed the US manufacturing sector contracted for a fourth straight month in November as new orders slid.

That erased the market cheer from upbeat Chinese factory surveys released over the past few days.

Bearish sentiment pushed bond prices higher. The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell to 1.8172 percent from a US close of 1.836 percent on Monday, and the policy-sensitive two-year yield, dipped to 1.606 percent from its US close of 1.614 percent.

In currency markets, the dollar rose 0.06 percent against the yen to 109.04 and the euro was a touch lower at $1.1075.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was at 97.856.

Oil prices continued to rise on expectations that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies may agree to deepen output cuts at a meeting this week.

US West Texas Intermediate crude was up 0.25 percent to $56.10 a barrel.

Gold was flat on the spot market, trading at $1,462.21 per ounce.