Shares slide as Trump raises spectre of longer, wider trade war

SINGAPORE: Asian shares extended their losses on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump said a trade deal with China might have to wait until after the 2020 presidential election, dashing hopes for a quick preliminary agreement.

Fresh U.S. tariffs on Argentina and Brazil as well as threatened duties on French goods also darkened the mood, as a trade war that appeared to be winding down a week ago now looks like ramping up.

Investors turned to safe-havens, boosting bond prices and sending gold to a one-month high, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.9%.

Japan’s Nikkei dropped 1.2%, matched by falls in Hong Kong and Korea, where stock markets hit their lowest since October.

Shanghai blue chips fell 0.2% and Australia’s S&P/ASX200 tumbled 1.7%, having shed almost 4% since closing on Monday.

The yield on benchmark U.S. 10-year treasuries fell as low as 1.6930% overnight, the sharpest fall since May. It stood at 1.7242% on Wednesday.

“Suddenly you can feel the market,” said Sean Taylor, chief investment officer for Asia-Pacific at German asset management firm DWS, calling trade the top threat to the global outlook.

“It just takes one or two comments and then a bad feeling again,” he said. “It’s still quite uncertain.”

Trump had told reporters in London that there is “no deadline” for an agreement with China to end the tit-for-tat tariff war, which the International Monetary Fund has said will push global growth to its slowest in a decade.

“In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal,” he said.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said if no substantial progress was made soon, another round of duties on Chinese imports including cell phones, laptops and toys would take effect on Dec. 15.

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