Asia stocks set to stabilize following days of declines


Stocks in Asia were set to trade higher at the open on Friday following days of declines this week amid U.S.-China trade confusion.

Futures pointed to a higher open for Japanese shares. The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 23,065 while its counterpart in Osaka was at 23,100. That compared against the Nikkei 225’s last close at 23,038.58.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia rose in early trade as the S&P/ASX 200 gained about 0.5%.

Shares of Westpac declined more than 1% after Goldman Sachs cut its price target for the stock by 10%, according to Reuters. The lender’s stock has slipped in the past few days. Australia’s anti money-laundering and terrorism financing regulator filed for civil penalty orders against the firm, alleging its “oversight of the banking and designated services provided through its corresponding banking relationships was deficient.”

Markets have had a rocky trading week amid mixed headlines on U.S.-China trade.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, during a phone call thought to have been made late last week, had invited U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Beijing to sit down for further talks.

It was not clear whether U.S. negotiators had accepted Liu’s invitation. However, the Journal’s report said that U.S. trade officials were willing to meet with their Chinese counterparts. Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post said both countries are on the “doorstep” of reaching a deal, citing a source close to the Trump administration.

The matter has been further complicated by U.S. legislation on Hong Kong, which has been rocked by months of protests. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday intended to support protesters in Hong Kong. It prompted Beijing to accuse the U.S. of interfering in domestic affairs. U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to sign the bill.

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“China has called on the President to veto the bill but with unanimous Senate and House support, its highly unlikely that he will do so,” Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, wrote in an overnight note.

“They have threatened forceful measures if the bill is signed so expect to tensions to escalate when that happens,” Lien said.

Overnight on Wall Street, stocks stateside posed a three day-losing streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 54.8 points to close at 27,766.29 while the S&P 500 dipped 0.16% end its trading day at 3,103.54. Nasdaq Composite declined 0.2% to close at 8,506.21. Thursday marked the third straight day of losses for the Dow — its longest losing streak since August. The S&P 500 posted its first three-day slide since September.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.958 after dipping to levels below 97.8 earlier.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.59 per dollar after strengthening from levels above 108.9 seen earlier in the trading week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6787 after declining from highs around $0.681 yesterday.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.



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