Asian stocks rise on hopes for US-China trade talks

Traders were reassured by an agreement in June by Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping to resume stalled talks. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 July 2019

Asian stocks rise on hopes for US-China trade talks

  • Traders have focused on signs of movement toward a settlement of the US-China tariff war over Beijing’s technology ambitions
  • Beijing has said it supports nuclear nonproliferation efforts but rejects unilateral US sanctions

BEIJING: Asian stock markets rose Tuesday on optimism over possible new US-China talks despite concerns about rising Middle East tensions. Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney all climbed.

Traders were encouraged by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s suggestion last week that trade envoys might meet in person following two rounds of phone conversations. Mnuchin gave no timeline, but his comments helped to temper anxiety over US-Iranian tensions.

Traders have focused on signs of movement toward a settlement of the US-China tariff war over Beijing’s technology ambitions.They were reassured by an agreement in June by Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping to resume stalled talks. That is despite warnings the truce is likely to be fragile because the two sides are divided by the same array of disagreements that caused negotiations to collapse in May.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.4% to 2,898.20 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 climbed 1% to 21,620.88. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.3% to 28,450.32 and Seoul’s Kospi was 0.4% higher at 2,101.45. India’s Sensex edged up 0.1% to 38,065.10.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.5% to 6,724.60. New Zealand and Taiwan climbed while Southeast Asian markets retreated. Investors also looked ahead to this week’s meeting of European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve next week.

“Reports of the US and China resuming trade negotiations next week are positive for risk sentiment, but escalating tensions in the Middle East pushing oil higher are negative,” said ING in a report. “We anticipate wait and watch sentiment” ahead of the ECB and Fed meetings.

On Wall Street, the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.3% to 2,985.03. The index is back within 1% of its record, set a week earlier. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 0.1% to 21,171.90. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.7% to 8,204.14.

Apple, Intel and several chip makers jumped more than 2% and technology stocks in the S&P 500 climbed 1.2%. But the other 10 sectors that make up the index were evenly split between gainers and losers, and none moved by more than 0.5%.

Earnings reports are due over the next two weeks from about three-fifths of S&P 500 companies. Expectations are generally modest. Slowing global economic growth and rising costs are weighing on companies. Many investors are more interested in what CEOs say about how Trump’s trade war will affect profits than in their results for the spring.

Markets also are watching tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. Washington announced sanctions this week on a Chinese oil company, Zhuhai Zhenrong, that it said violated controls on transporting Iranian crude. Beijing has said it supports nuclear nonproliferation efforts but rejects unilateral US sanctions.

“This simultaneously turns US pressure up on Iran and also stresses the already strained US-China relations,” Mizuho Bank said in a report. There is a “significant risk of a longer-term shift toward a more hawkish stance on the Iran issue” if Boris Johnson becomes the British prime minister as expected, Stephen Innes of Vanguard Markets said in a report.

“The US administration will waste little time pressuring the new UK PM to toe a stricter line on the nuclear accord.”
ENERGY: Benchmark US crude gained 20 cents to $56.42 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 46 cents on Wednesday to close at $56.22. Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced 30 cents to $63.56 in London. It gained 79 cents the previous session to $63.26.

CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 108.16 yen from Wednesday’s 107.86 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1190 from $1.1209.


IMF chief warns pandemic leaving some countries behind

Updated 24 February 2021

IMF chief warns pandemic leaving some countries behind

WASHINGTON: The crisis caused by the pandemic is leaving many economies lagging behind, increasing the plight of the poor, a problem made worse by “uneven” access to vaccines, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said Wednesday.
In a message to the Group of 20 meeting on Friday Georgieva urged governments to increase vaccine distribution, ensuring Covid-19 is brought under control.
“The economic arguments for coordinated action are overwhelming,” she said in a blog post.
“Faster progress in ending the health crisis could raise global income cumulatively by $9 trillion over 2020-25. That would benefit all countries.”
She said that should include financing for vaccinations, reallocation of excess supply to countries with a shortage, and scaling up of production.
The global pandemic death toll is approaching 2.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the shutdowns forced to control infections have devastated economies.
And while vaccine rollouts are raising hopes for a recovery this year, the IMF forecasts job losses in the G20 alone to total more than 25 million this year.
By the end of 2022, emerging market and developing nations — excluding China — will see per capital incomes 22 percent below pre-crisis levels, compared to just 13 percent lower for advanced economies, which will throw millions more into extreme poverty, Georgieva warned.
“That is why we need much stronger international collaboration to accelerate the vaccine rollout in poorer countries,” she said.
G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs led by Rome will meet by videoconference to discuss the state of the recovery and how best to attack the problem.
The Washington-based crisis lender estimated more than half of the world’s 110 emerging and developing countries will see their incomes fall further behind advanced economies through the end of next year.
And the virus-driven economic crisis also will widen income gaps within developing nations, especially as millions of children are still facing disruptions to education.
“Allowing them to become a lost generation would be an unforgiveable mistake. It would also deepen the long-term economic scars of the crisis,” she warned.


Moody’s revises up US and emerging markets forecasts, cuts Europe

Updated 24 February 2021

Moody’s revises up US and emerging markets forecasts, cuts Europe

  • Emerging market growth moved up to 7 percent from 6.1 percent, led by upward revisions to China, India and Mexico

LONDON:Credit ratings firm Moody’s revised upwards on Wednesday its economic forecasts for the year for the United States and emerging markets, but cut Europe’s following the region’s tough COVID-19 lockdowns.
Moody’s pushed up its US growth forecast to 4.7 percent, from the 4.2 percent it had expected in November.
Emerging market growth moved up to 7 percent from 6.1 percent, led by upward revisions to China, India and Mexico, while the euro zone and Britain saw their respective projections cut to 3.7 percent and 4.7 percent, from 4.7 percent and 5.2 percent previously.
“The effects on individual businesses, sectors and regions continue to be uneven, and the COVID-19 crisis will endure as a challenge to the world’s economies well beyond our two-year forecast horizon,” Moody’s said in a report on its new forecasts.

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SoftBank-backed Berkshire Grey to go public via $2.7bn SPAC deal

Updated 24 February 2021

SoftBank-backed Berkshire Grey to go public via $2.7bn SPAC deal

SoftBank-backed robotics firm Berkshire Grey said on Wednesday it has agreed to go public through a merger with blank-check firm Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp. in a deal valuing the equity of the combined company at $2.7 billion.

Food and drinks group Agthia eyes acquisitions to become big regional player

Updated 24 February 2021

Food and drinks group Agthia eyes acquisitions to become big regional player

  • Agthia’s products include bottled water, dairy products and baked goods

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi-listed food and drinks group Agthia Group is looking into making more acquisitions to turn the company into one of the region’s top players in the food and beverage industry, its chief executive said on Tuesday.
After doing a number of deals already Agthia has a “pipeline of ideas” for additional targets to strengthen its position at home and abroad.
“Certainly we want to be a big regional player in the F&B business and more in the consumer space, so we want to move into that branded space where we can start building master brands across the region,” CEO Alan Smith said.
Agthia’s products include bottled water, dairy products and baked goods.
Smith did not rule out entering new markets, though he said a number of factors would come into play, including whether the company could enter at a large enough scale.
He said Agthia has had conversations with Israeli parties on potential cooperation, but no agreements have been finalized.
Smith also said Agthia had some sub-scale assets that the company was currently reviewing.
Abu Dhabi state-owned holding company ADQ, the corporate structure where Agthia sits, in November signed an agreement to acquire an indirect 45% stake in Louis Dreyfus Co., the first outside investment in the family-owned commodity merchant’s 169-year-old history.
“To be honest the Dreyfus transaction is fairly recent and I think we have had some initial conversations just in terms of the commodities space. But at the moment there’s no plans to have a conversation with them about (consumer packaged goods) products.”
Smith said Agithia, which reported a fall in net profit for 2020, had a strong balance sheet and was comfortable with its debt levels. It has no current plans to tap international debt markets, but may need to in the future, he said.


Britain’s Heathrow sinks to $2.8bn loss during pandemic

Updated 24 February 2021

Britain’s Heathrow sinks to $2.8bn loss during pandemic

  • Heathrow called on the government to agree a common international travel standard to allow passengers to start flying again in the summer

LONDON: Britain’s Heathrow Airport plunged to a 2 billion pound ($2.8 billion) annual loss after passenger numbers collapsed to levels last seen in the 1970s during the pandemic.
Heathrow called on the government to agree a common international travel standard to allow passengers to start flying again in the summer and to provide business tax breaks for airports to help them ride out the crisis.
The airport, west of London, is hopeful that travel markets will reopen from mid-May after a government announcement on easing lockdown on Monday.
Still Britain’s biggest airport, Heathrow last year lost its title as the busiest in Europe to Paris as its flight schedules contracted more than its rival’s.
The airport said on Wednesday that during 2020 passenger numbers shrunk 73% to 22 million people, with half of those people having traveled during January and February before COVID-19 shut down global travel.
The airport sunk to a 2 billion loss before tax on revenues which were down 62% to 1.18 billion pounds, but Heathrow said it had 3.9 billion pounds of liquidity and that could keep it going until 2023.
The airport is owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, the Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment Corp, among others.