Asian markets mixed after trade talks, Aussie dollar pares losses

Hong Kong: Asian markets were mixed on Friday as China-US trade talks wrapped up with little progress, while the dollar held up ahead of a key speech by the head of the Federal Reserve.

The Australian dollar pared losses and stocks inched up after the governing Liberal Party elected a new business-friendly prime minister, ending a week of political uncertainty.

Officials from Beijing and Washington finished a two-day meeting that saw what the Chinese side described as “constructive and frank” discussions on trade.

The low-level negotiations were the first since the world’s top economies began exchanging tit-for-tat tariffs in July and came as they imposed fresh measures on billions of dollars more in goods.

“The two sides will keep contact regarding future plans,” China’s Commerce Ministry said in a brief statement, while the White House said the talks concluded after officials “exchanged views on how to achieve fairness, balance and reciprocity in the economic relationship”.

By the end of the day Tokyo was up 0.9 percent as a weaker yen helped exporters, while Shanghai added 0.2 percent.

Seoul gained 0.5 percent and Wellington added 0.2 percent. But Hong Kong lost 0.4 percent and Singapore slipped one percent with Taipei, Manila and Jakarta also down.

Sydney’s under-pressure S&P/ASX 200 fluctuated through the day and ended up 0.1 percent after the Liberals elected Scott Morrison as prime minister.

The former treasurer took the reins after beating hardliner Peter Dutton, who had moved to replace Malcolm Turnbull in a shock revolt earlier this week that sent Australian markets spinning.

The Australian dollar fell about 0.8 percent in the morning but clawed back in the afternoon to sit 0.2 percent lower.

Elsewhere on currency markets the US dollar fluctuated but was holding gains ahead of the annual Jackson Hole symposium of central bankers, where Fed boss Jerome Powell is due to speak later Friday.

While his remarks will be pored over for clues about the bank’s policy plans, they will attract more interest after Donald Trump’s criticism this week of the Fed’s recent interest rate hikes and accusations it is not backing his economic agenda.

The comments, which also saw the president refuse to explicitly back the Fed’s independence, dented the dollar this week.

“Any comments on current Fed policy will draw even more than the usual attention given recent and unprecedented criticism of the Fed by President Trump,” Larry Hatheway, chief economist at GAM Investments, told Bloomberg News.

“While Powell prefers to speak plainly and in non-technical terms, he may find reason to take a more guarded approach in order to avoid the appearance of open conflict with the administration.”

In early European trade London and Paris each edged up 0.1 percent while Frankfurt added 0.2 percent.

– Key figures around 0810 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.9 percent at 22,601.77 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 27,671.87 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 2,729.43 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,567.00

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1552 from $1.1543 at 2030 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2821 from $1.2815

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.36 yen from 111.23 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 60 cents at $68.43 per barrel

Oil – Brent Crude: UP 45 cents at $75.18 per barrel

New York – Dow Jones: DOWN 0.3 percent at 25,656.98 (close).