By Marketwatch and Associated Press
Asian markets fell in early trading Wednesday after President Donald Trump said a trade deal with China may not come until after the 2020 presidential election.
“In some ways, I think it’s better to wait until after the election if you want to know the truth. But I’m not going to say that, I just think that,” Trump said Tuesday at a news conference in London, where he was attending a NATO summit.
U.S. stocks sank after the remark, though the three major indexes closed above session lows.
Trade tensions could escalate further, after Congress late Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill condemning China’s mass detention of ethnic Muslims, and called for sanctions against some officials responsible. China reacted harshly last week to a bill Trump signed last week supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.
Japan’s Nikkei /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.75% fell 1.2%, as the country’s parliament on Wednesday approved a trade deal with the U.S. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -2.19% sank 1.1%, while the Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -0.57% retreated 0.3%. South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.04% dropped 1%, and benchmark indexes in Taiwan /zigman2/quotes/210597977/delayed TW:Y9999 -0.46% , Singapore /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI -1.65% , Malaysia /zigman2/quotes/210598052/delayed MY:FBMKLCI -2.09% and Indonesia /zigman2/quotes/210597981/delayed ID:JAKIDX -1.61% all fell. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -2.56% declined 1.4% after data showed the economy sputtered in the third quarter despite fiscal stimulus.
Among individual stocks, Fast Retailing /zigman2/quotes/200663563/delayed JP:9983 -2.38% sank in Tokyo trading after the Uniqlo parent said sales fell more than 5% year-over-year in November. Honda /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 -3.66% and oil producer Inpex /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 +0.31% also fell. In Hong Kong, tech company Sunny Optical /zigman2/quotes/206687505/delayed HK:2382 -0.10% and developers China Overseas Land & Investment /zigman2/quotes/205731176/delayed HK:688 -0.42% and New World Development /zigman2/quotes/202357413/delayed HK:17 +0.48% declined. Samsung /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 +0.44% retreated in South Korea, and BHP /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP -2.48% and Rio Tinto /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -2.92% tumbled in Australia.
“Until both sides dial down their hawkish rhetoric, markets will continue to pull back earlier optimism,” said DBS Group analysts in a report. “Trade war will be the key driver of sentiment in the immediate few weeks.”
On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -4.41% fell 0.7% to 3,093.20. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -4.44% lost 1% to 27,502.81. The Nasdaq /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -4.41% dropped 0.6% to 8,520.64.
Negotiators have yet to agree on details of an interim deal that Trump has called “Phase 1” deal.
Investors also are also weighing the potential for additional trade disputes.
On Tuesday, Trump proposed tariffs on $2.4 billion in French products in retaliation for a tax on global tech giants including Alphabet’s /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -5.15% Google, Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -2.16% and Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -4.32% . That follows a threat Monday to raise tariffs on steel and aluminum from Argentina and Brazil.
Also Wednesday, Australia disappointed investors by reporting third-quarter economic growth declined to 0.4% over the previous quarter from 0.6% in the three months ending in June. The Australian central bank had described the economy as experiencing a “gentle upturn.”
Benchmark U.S. crude rose 40 cents to $56.50 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 14 cents on Tuesday to close at $56.10. Brent crude , used to price international oils, rose 48 cents to $61.30 per barrel in London. It lost 10 cents the previous session to $60.82.
The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.2286% declined to 108.59 yen from Tuesday’s 108.63 yen.