Asia shares retreat on fears China-US trade row might spread

Asian shares were mostly lower on Friday as worries that the trade standoff between the U.S. and China might expand put investors in a selling mood.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.2% to finish at 21,117.22. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.6% at 6,456.00. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.8% to 2,043.43. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged 0.4% higher to 27,361.48, while the Shanghai Composite inched up 0.1% to 2,855.67.

“Finally, markets appear to be starting to price in the effect of an extended U.S.-China trade war on global growth,” Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda, said in a commentary.

Stocks ended sharply lower on Wall Street on Thursday in a broad sell-off that left the benchmark S&P 500 index on track for its third straight weekly loss and had the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 400 points until late afternoon.

Traders sought safety in the bond market, driving bond prices higher, which pulled the yield on the 10-year Treasury to 2.31%, the lowest level in more than a year. It was at 2.33% by midday Friday in Asia.

The stock market has been gyrating since Washington and Beijing escalated their dispute over trade earlier this month. Now, the two sides have broken off negotiations and appear set for a long standoff. Investors are concerned that a prolonged trade war could stunt economic growth and hurt corporate profits.

Overnight, President Donald Trump reiterated his complaints that China has “taken advantage” of the United States, with no hint of any progress in resolving the conflict over technology and Beijing’s industrial policies.

The S&P 500 index fell 1.2% to 2,822.24. The index was down 2.5% before the selling eased. The Dow lost 1.1% to 25,490.47.

The Nasdaq composite dropped 1.6% to 7,628.28. The Russell 200 index of small company stocks gave up 2% to 1,501.38.

The U.S. and China concluded their 11th round of trade talks earlier this month with no agreement. Instead, the U.S. moved to increase tariffs on Chinese goods, prompting China to reciprocate. The trade dispute escalated further after the U.S. proposed restrictions on technology sales to China, though it has temporarily backed off.

China is looking for ways to retaliate and has reached out for support from Russia and its neighbors in Asia. Both the U.S. and China have made overtures about continuing trade talks, but none are scheduled. That uncertainty has many traders nervous about how and when the trade dispute will be resolved.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 61 cents to $58.53 a barrel. It plunged 5.7% to settle at $57.91 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 75 cents to $68.51 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 109.54 yen from 110.08 yen Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.1196 from $1.1135.

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