February 28, 2019: Asian markets fluctuated Thursday as optimism over China-US trade talks was tempered by Donald Trump's top negotiator, while investors also digested weak factory data from Beijing and fresh geopolitical tensions in Kashmir.
The global rally that has characterized most of this year took a knock after US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers that “real progress” had been made with China, but a lot of work was still needed before a pact is signed.
While his comments did not derail expectations of an agreement at some point — with both sides reporting good progress and Trump delaying a deadline for a deal — it did give traders pause for thought, observers said.
Lighthizer said a “trade deal hasn't been agreed yet, bringing some reality back to euphoric markets post-Trump's tariff extension, despite the fact Lighthizer also announced both sides had agreed on an enforcement process”, said OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley.
After a negative lead from Wall Street, Asian markets swung Thursday and Tokyo went into the break 0.4 percent lower.
Hong Kong was up 0.4 percent mid-morning, Shanghai gained 0.3 percent, Sydney put on 0.2 percent and Wellington was up 0. 4 percent.
But Singapore slipped 0.5 percent and Seoul shed 0.2 percent, while Jakarta retreated 0.5 percent and Manila lost 0.7 percent.
Also fueling selling pressure was figures showing Chinese manufacturing activity contracted for a third straight month in February, with factories hit by the long Lunar New Year break, concerns about slowing growth and uncertainty from the trade row.