Tokyo: Stock markets in Asia tracked their global peers lower while the safe-haven dollar hovered near a two-week high on Wednesday as heightened worries over international trade conflicts curbed investor appetite for riskier assets. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.5 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index retreated 0.4 percent. Australian stocks lost 0.75 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI dropped 0.1 percent and Japan’s Nikkei shed 0.35 percent. U.S. stocks had slipped on Tuesday as a drop in heavyweights Facebook and Nike added to worries over trade negotiations between the United States and other major economies.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed about 0.5 percent the previous day.
“The U.S.-Canada talks are due to resume today and this keeps trade issues at the forefront, with a wait-and-see mood prevailing in the equity markets," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo.
Discussions between the United States and Canada were expected to resume on Wednesday after the last round ended on Friday with no deal to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), cooling investor confidence.
“Then there is the U.S.-China trade issue, in addition to turbulence in the emerging market currencies that the markets have to worry about," Ichikawa at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management said.
Keeping investors nervous is the threat of fresh U.S tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that could take effect after a public comment period ends on Thursday.
Emerging markets stocks and currencies faced their latest round of pressure with news that South Africa had slipped into recession and concerns brewing about inflation in Turkey.
Argentina’s peso finished the day down over 2 percent on Tuesday. The peso fell although U.S. President Donald Trump voiced support for Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his efforts to win IMF financing in the wake of a deepening economic crisis.
Argentine Economy Minister Nicolas Dujovne met International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde in Washington on Tuesday and both said they were working together to improve a $50 billion standby finance deal agreed with the IMF’s executive board in June.
“If a larger credit line from the IMF is not forthcoming, then in an environment of rising dollar and U.S. interest rates it is hard to see where the relief will come from for the Argentine peso -and indeed other emerging market currencies with twin deficits and high levels of USD-denominated debt," wrote currency strategists at Rabobank.
With investors avoiding emerging market currencies, the dollar was supported thanks to its safe-haven appeal.
The greenback extended its overnight rise against the yen to touch a near one-week high of 111.71 yen.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six currencies, was a touch lower at 95.360 but in close reach of a two-week high of 95.737 set on Tuesday.
The euro was 0.15 percent higher at $1.1599 following a loss of 0.35 percent on Tuesday.
The dollar had also drawn strength on Tuesday from upbeat U.S. indicators supporting the case for further interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.
Data on Tuesday showed U.S. manufacturing activity accelerated to more than a 14-year high in August, boosted by a surge in new orders.
The Australian dollar was up 0.4 percent at $0.7204 following stronger-than-expected domestic second quarter GDP data. The Aussie managed to pull away from $0.7157, its lowest since May 2016 plumbed on Tuesday.
China’s yuan was a shade firmer in onshore trading at 6.8469 per dollar after losing 0.25 percent the previous day.
Crude oil prices dipped, weighed by a stronger dollar which tends to burden non-U.S. buyers of dollar-denominated commodities.
Brent crude futures were down 0.2 percent at $78.03 per barrel after brushing a three-month peak of $79.72 on Tuesday. U.S. crude futures were down 0.6 percent at $69.46 per barrel.
Oil prices partly reversed a strong jump from the previous day, as the impact of a tropical storm on U.S. Gulf coast production was not as strong as initially expected.
Prices jumped the previous day as dozens of U.S. oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were shut in anticipation of tropical storm Gordon hitting the region.