SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian stocks barely moved on Monday when investors were unable to mess up global growth concerns, US policies and trade wars against Chinese-US trade, and kept dollars close to a six-week peak against large currencies.
A man sitting in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China December 3, 2018. REUTERS / Stringer
Chinese stock indices played catch up when they were reopened after a week-long break. Gains came as the Ministry of Commerce said that sales revenues during the month of the new year jumped 8.5 per cent from last year, even though growth in the world's second largest economy is decreasing.
China's blue chip index rose 1.6 percent while Shanghai's SSE composite climbed 1.2 percent.
Australian stocks recover some losses to end 0.2 percent lower while South Korea's KOSPI index increased by 0.2 percent. Indonesian and Indian references were in red.
The one who left the MSCI's widest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan was a bit tighter after it was topped from a four-month peak on Friday.
The trading volumes were generally light, with Japan in the holiday season.
"The ranges have been on the tight since today, and no one has been prepared to knock down any authority," said Chris Weston, research director at Melbourne broker Pepperstone.
"I have no doubt that it will change as we go through the week, with trade relations banging on the epicenter of worries," he said.
Tensions between the US and China have cost both countries billions of dollars and roiled global financial markets.
A new round of negotiations started in Beijing on Monday, with high-level talks with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of State Steven Mnuchin on Thursday and Friday.
If the negotiations do not develop sufficiently by March 1, the US has said it intends to raise tariffs of $ 200 billion from China imports to 25 percent from 10 percent.
"Uncertainty in US trading with increasing concerns over the scale of today's global growth dampening has seen an increase in demand for core global bonds," said Rodrigo Catril, senior forex strategist at National Australia Bank.
"On the basis of uncertainty and despite a Fed that is comfortable on hold, the dollar continues to win the slightest ugly competition."
The US Federal Bank has signaled patience on policy after delivering four rides in 2018, referring to increasing economic risk from a decline in global growth.
The dollar exchange rate index remained close to a six-week high around 96,695 against a basket of currencies, and set out for its sixth fair increase in gains that traders stuffed into the greenback of a safe-haven move.
World markets are already under pressure from a drum role of gloomy news on the world economy.
Last week, the EU Commission recorded strong growth in the euro area this year and next, and US President Donald Trump added anxiety with a statement that he had no intention of meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping before March 1 to achieve a trade agreement.
Adding concerns increased the collapse of talks between US democratic and Republican lawmakers over the weekend during a clash of immigration detention for fear of another government's suspension.
The growing pressure on growth means that the equity markets' long-term assets will partly depend on revenues from large US companies. These include Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., Walmart Inc, Home Depot Inc., Macy's Inc. and Gap Inc for additional consumer health clues.
Analysts now expect the first quarter results for the S&P 500 companies to reduce 0.1 percent from the previous year, which will be the first quarterly profit decline since 2016, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Elsewhere, the euro was barely changed to $ 1,1322 after five quick days of loss took it to more than 2 weeks. Sterling dithered at $ 1.2931.
The Australian dollar rose from Friday's one-month downturn, although the feeling was still cautious after the country's central bank opened the door to a possible cut in interest rates.
Oil prices fell on concerns about slowing global demand among a pick-up in US drilling activity. [O/R]
U.S. Raw was 56 cents weaker at $ 52.16 a barrel while Brent fell 36 cents to $ 61.74.
Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Richard Borsuk