Asia stocks struggle for direction as investors watch US Treasury yields

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  • Stocks in Asia were mixed on Wednesday following an overnight inversion of a closely watched U.S. Treasury yield curve to its worst level in more than a decade.
  • The spread between the 10-year Treasury yield and the 2-year rate fell to negative 5 basis points on Tuesday, its lowest level since 2007.
  • Closer to the region, Japan officially removed South Korea from a list of preferred trading partners on Wednesday.

Stocks in Asia were mixed on Wednesday following an overnight inversion of a closely watched U.S. Treasury yield curve to its worst level in more than a decade.

Mainland Chinese stocks closed lower, with the Shanghai composite declining 0.29% to approximately 2,893.76 and the Shenzhen component down 0.31% to 9,414.00. The Shenzhen composite shed 0.125% to about 1,593.82. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was about 0.2% lower, as of its final hour of trading.

Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225 in Japan added 0.11% to close at 20,479.42 while the Topix rose fractionally to finish its trading day at 1,490.35. South Korea’s Kospi closed 0.86% higher at 1,941.09. With both countries remaining locked in a diplomatic spat, Japan officially removed South Korea from a list of preferred trading partners on Wednesday.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.45% to 6,500.60.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index edged down 0.05%.


NIKKEINikkei 225 IndexNIKKEI20479.420.000.00
HSIHang Seng IndexHSI25615.48-48.59-0.19
ASX 200S&P/ASX 200ASX 2006500.600.000.00
KOSPIKOSPI IndexKOSPI1941.090.000.00
CNBC 100CNBC 100 ASIA IDXCNBC 1007613.73-4.47-0.06

US Treasury watch

Investors watched for movements in U.S. Treasurys on Wednesday, after the spread between the 10-year Treasury yield and the 2-year rate fell to negative 5 basis points on Tuesday — its lowest level since 2007. The phenomenon, known as a yield curve inversion, has historically preceded a recession.

The inversion continued into the afternoon of Asian trading hours on Wednesday, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note last at 1.4844% versus a rate of 1.522% for the 2-year Treasury note.

“The escalation in China-US trade war last week will prompt safe haven demand for an extended period with any deal looking increasingly elusive. Moreover, scope for further escalation as the tariff deadlines hit will weigh on sentiment,” analysts at Singapore’s DBS Bank wrote in a note. “In a world where yield is scarce, there appears to be no alternative to US Treasuries.”

Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital Investors, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Wednesday that the tariffs’ impact is felt by companies in terms of the uncertainty and supply chain dislocation.

There’s been a “quite clear decline” in U.S. business confidence and investment from around the middle of last year when the trade war “really started to ramp up,” he said.

“That impact’s (global), it’s obviously impacted the Chinese economy, it’s impacting Germany, and it really needs to be brought under control … fairly soon if … President Trump wants to get himself reelected next year because historically, U.S. Presidents don’t get reelected if there is a recession and rising unemployment in the period before the election,” he said.

On Tuesday, China announced measures aimed at raising consumption, including a potential removal of restrictions on car purchases.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 98.061, still off highs above 98.4 seen last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.77 against the dollar after touching highs around 105.6 yesterday, while the Australian dollar was at $0.6738 after slipping from levels above $0.676 in the previous session.

Oil prices rose in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures adding 0.89% to $60.04 per barrel and U.S. crude futures gaining 1.2% to $55.59 per barrel.
Finance Team

Finance Team

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