Aug 7, 2019

Asia I Asia Shares closing Report: Asia shares mixed as China sets the yuan midpoint slightly weaker than expected

Eustance Huang

Asia Pacific stocks traded mixed on Wednesday as investors kept a close watch on the Chinese yuan amid an escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the the official midpoint reference for the yuan at 6.9996 per dollar, which was slightly weaker than market expectations. China’s central bank allows the exchange rate to rise or fall 2% from that number.
Mainland Chinese shares declined on the day: The Shanghai composite shed 0.32% to about 2,768.68, the Shenzhen component fell 0.5% to 8,814.74 and the Shenzhen composite fell 0.427% to around 1,483.95.
The Japanese benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.33% to close at 20,516.56, with index heavyweight and robot maker Fanuc shedding 1.56%. The Topix index, on the other hand, finished the trading day in Tokyo slightly higher at 1,499.93.
SoftBank Group shares slid 0.23%. After market close, the Japanese conglomerate reported quarterly operating income for the three months that ended June 30: It fell 3.7% on-year to 688.8 billion yen ($6.49 billion) but it still beat analysts’ expectations. Operating income from SoftBank’s Saudi-backed Vision Fund and Delta Fund rose almost 66% to 397.6 billion yen for the quarter.
South Korea’s Kospi closed 0.41% lower at 1,909.71 as shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics slipped 0.69%. Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 ended its trading day 0.64% higher at 6,519.50.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 0.14%, as of its final hour of trading. Hong Kong-listed shares of Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD dropped more than 5% after the company reported that its July sales volume fell about 17% compared to a year earlier. The firm’s Shenzhen-listed shares slipped 1.11%.
Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was lower by 0.05%.

Chinese yuan

The onshore yuan changed hands at 7.0397 per dollar. Its offshore counterpart, which last traded at 7.0725 against the dollar, is used by foreign investors and banks.
The yuan broke a closely watched level of 7 against the dollar on Monday, sending markets across the globe into a frenzy and leading the U.S. Treasury Department to label China as a currency manipulator.
For its part, the PBOC rejected the U.S. Treasury’s claims on Tuesday, saying that the “United States disregards the facts and unreasonably affixes China with the label of ‘currency manipulators,’ which is a behavior that harms others and oneself.”
Markets are “still grappling with the escalation in trade tension as the yuan depreciated through the key level of 7 to the (dollar), and the US labelled China a currency manipulator,” analysts from ANZ Research wrote in a morning note.
The Chinese central bank’s “stronger-than-expected fixing of the yuan yesterday and reiteration that it won’t seek to competitive depreciate, helped stabilise markets,” the ANZ analysts added.
Those moves came after U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced late last week that fresh tariffs would be slapped on additional Chinese exports from Sept. 1, intensifying the trade war between Beijing and Washington.
“The decision by (Chinese President) Xi Jinping to allow the (yuan) to dip a little bit is the Chinese equivalent of a tweet, ” Daniel Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told CNBC’s “Street Signs ” on Wednesday.
“It’s a signal to the U.S., it’s a signal to Donald Trump. It says: ‘Hey if you want to fight you’re gonna take a few punches,’” Russel added. “China’s not gonna rollover, China’s a big country, a big economy and it politically simply won’t allow itself to be bullied.”

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

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