AFP – Asian markets fell sharply Friday as US President Donald Trump’s decision to slap new tariffs on China ratcheted up investor fears over the trade war between the world’s top two economies.
The losses in Asia followed a broad-based selloff on Wall Street, where the Dow finished 1.1 percent lower on Thursday, losing more than 400 points following Trump’s announcement that Washington would impose 10 percent in tariffs on another $300 billion in Chinese goods.
The decision came just as US markets were rallying on the back of the Federal Reserve’s decision Wednesday to cut interest rates for the first time in more than a decade.
"The 10 percent is… for a short-term period and then I can always do much more or I can do less, depending on what happens with respect to a deal," Trump said at the White House, adding, "it could be lifted up to well beyond 25 percent."
The world’s two largest economies have now erected trade barriers covering virtually all of their $660 billion in annual trade in merchandise.
The latest announcement came after trade negotiators held talks in Shanghai this week, the first face-to-face discussions since Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in June.
Negotiators are now set to reconvene in Washington in early September for another round of talks, just after the new tariffs take effect.
On Thursday Trump told reporters he was "not concerned… at all" by the negative reaction among investors, saying he had anticipated it.
"Trump sent the market in a tailspin," said Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst at OANDA.
"So far, the US consumer has been spared from the tariffs on Chinese goods, but as Trump’s threats grow in scope, so does the potential impact (as) higher costs will have to be passed down from American companies", he added.
Hong Kong lost 2.3 percent, while Tokyo declined 2.4 percent and Shanghai fell 1.5 percent. Taipei shed one percent while Seoul dropped 1.9 percent.
"Selling will likely lead trade", Okasan Online Securities said in a note.
"There are fresh signs that US-China trade frictions are worsening again" while investors are likely to stay away from buying ahead of the weekend, it added.
– Grim outlook –
Japan’s move to remove South Korea from a "white list" of favoured export partners added to the trade jitters, as the US allies spar over a long-running dispute on forced labour during World War II.
A string of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate forced labour victims has infuriated Japan, which argues the issue was resolved when the two countries normalised ties.
The latest measure comes after Tokyo last month tightened the rules on exports of three products key to South Korea’s chip and smartphone industries, raising fears for global supply in the sectors.
Hidehiko Mukoyama, senior economist at Japan Research Institute, said the outlook was grim.
"This is in effect a de facto sanction" against Seoul he told AFP, predicting retaliatory measures from South Korea, where public boycotts of Japanese goods have already taken place.
Oil prices made a cautious recovery after suffering a rout Thursday as Trump’s tariffs announcement fuelled concerns about lower demand, sending Brent plunging seven percent and WTI plummeting 7.9 percent, its worst decline in a session since February 2015.
– Key figures around 0230 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 2.4 percent at 21,031.63 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 2.3 percent at 26,939.44
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.5 percent at 2,864.30
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2110 from $1.2140 at 2100 GMT
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1075 from $1.1090
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.02 yen from 107.40
Brent North Sea crude: UP $1.61 at $62.11 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: UP $1.08 at $55.03 per barrel
New York – Dow: DOWN 1.1 percent at 26,583.42 (close)
London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,584.87 (close)