- MSCI Asia-Pacific index down 0.5 pct, Nikkei loses 1 pct
- Spreadbetters expect European stocks to open little changed
- Moves limited before Washington's July 6 tariffs deadline
- Trade woes keep copper, zinc stuck near one-year lows
- Crude slips after Trump demands OPEC "reduce pricing now"
Asian stocks fell for the fourth day and major currencies traded in tight ranges on Thursday, with financial markets jittery before a U.S. deadline to impose tariffs on Chinese imports just a day away.
Spreadbetters expected European stocks to open little changed, with Britain’s FTSE flat, Germany’s DAX 0.02 percent lower and France’s CAC down 0.1 percent.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan , which has been drifting lower since Monday, was down 0.5 percent. The index has lost about 2 percent this week, during which it plumbed a nine-month low.
S&P 500 futures edged up 0.1 percent while Dow futures lost 0.1 percent, pointing to a mixed start for Wall Street later in the day when trading resumes following Wednesday’s Independence Day holiday.
Japan’s Nikkei lost 1 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI slipped 0.75 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 0.9 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.9 percent.
“The markets lack strong direction without incentives from the United States, where their markets were closed yesterday. Moves by Chinese shares and the yuan remain a key factor in the meantime,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo.
The United States plans to implement tariffs on $50 billion worth of imports from China as both nations remained locked in a bitter trade dispute that has convulsed global financial markets in recent weeks.
On July 6, tariffs on $34 billion worth of imports will take effect, and Beijing has promised to retaliate in kind.
However, China’s finance ministry did say on Wednesday that it will “absolutely not” fire the first shot in a trade war with the United States and will not be the first to levy tariffs.
China has put pressure on the European Union to issue a strong joint statement against U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade policies, European officials told Reuters..
“The $34 billion U.S. tariffs figure has been mostly factored by the markets and focus is now on what the United States says on the remaining $16 billion,” Ichikawa said.
In currencies, the euro was little changed at $1.1655 . The single currency fell to as low as $1.1630 overnight after weaker confidence in the euro zone overshadowed better-than-expected data on business activity.
The Chinese yuan was slightly lower, its recovery from an 11-month low stalling. A rebound in the yuan was triggered in the past two sessions after the central bank sought to calm nervous markets midweek and stem the currency’s recent tumble.
The yuan was a touch lower after gaining 0.2 percent against the dollar on Wednesday.
The longer term direction for the yuan was still unclear. China appears broadly comfortable with a weakening yuan and would intervene only to prevent any destabilizing declines or to restore market confidence, policy insiders told Reuters.
“The July 6 deadline for the imposition of U.S. tariffs on China imports looms large. Although we do not believe China will weaponize its currency, we do believe the current trajectory of Chinese yuan depreciation is justified,” strategists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a note.
The dollar was 0.1 percent lower at 110.365 yen, trapped in a narrow range the previous day due to the U.S. holiday, awaiting minutes from the June Federal Reserve policy meeting due later in the day for immediate cues.
The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was 0.15 percent lower at 94.553.
Copper and zinc were stuck near one-year lows, having declined steadily over the past month on fears that the U.S.-China trade spat could reduce demand for industrial metals.
Copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) traded at $6,391.50 per tonne after slumping to a low of $6,344 the previous day, its weakest since August 2017.
LME zinc was at $2,695 a tonne after dropping to $2,687.50 overnight, the lowest since June last year.
Brent crude futures were down 0.7 percent at $77.69 a barrel, losing some steam after two successive days of gains after U.S. President Donald Trump sent a tweet demanding that OPEC reduce prices for crude.
Brent had risen on Wednesday on a threat from an Iranian commander and a drop in U.S. crude inventories.