SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares crept higher on Monday as a bounce in U.S. stock futures soothed sentiment even as U.S. President Donald Trump kept up his twitter war with China just a couple of days before President Xi Jinping gives a keynote speech.
There was more confusion than reaction to reports U.S. forces had struck at sites in Syria, reports which the Pentagon quickly denied.
Trump said on Sunday there would be a “big price to pay” after medical aid groups reported dozens of people were killed by poison gas in a besieged rebel-held town.
For now, investors in Asia were encouraged that E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were still up 0.66 percent, while NASDAQ futures rose 0.88 percent.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan responded by rising 0.7 percent. Japan’s Nikkei put on 0.6 percent, while Chinese blue chips added 0.3 percent and Hong Kong climbed 2 percent.
Caution had been the watchword after Trump claimed on Sunday that China would take down its trade barriers because it was “the right thing to do.”
Trump late Thursday threatened to slap $100 billion more in tariffs on Chinese imports, while Beijing said it was fully prepared to respond with a “fierce counter strike”.
Analysts warned the drama would be a long-running one given the lengthy public discussion period on U.S. tariff proposals meant the earliest they might be imposed was somewhere around late July or early August.
“This is not going to happen tomorrow, and given the mercurial nature of the U.S. administration, the whole issue could well disappear before anything really happens,” said Marshall Gittler, chief strategist at ACLS Global.
“Many market participants may be starting to think that this is just a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing in the end. But..you never know, U.S. trade policy is in the hands of someone totally unpredictable.”
HOPES FOR EARNINGS
The next major hurdle will be a speech by Chinese President Xi at the Boao Forum on Tuesday.
The war of words took a toll on Wall Street on Friday. The Dow ended down 2.3 percent, while the S&P 500 lost 2.2 percent and the Nasdaq 2.3 percent.
The looming earnings season might be strong enough to provide fundamental support for stocks, with analysts tipping the fastest quarterly profit growth in seven years.
The latest souring of risk sentiment and a soft report on U.S. payrolls helped sovereign debt end last week on a firm note. Yields on U.S. 10-year Treasury debt nudged up to 2.797 percent on Monday, though that compared to a top of 2.8380 last week.
In currency markets, the dollar steadied on the safe haven yen at 107.00, just short of the recent six-week peak of 107.49. The euro held at $1.2274, after bouncing from a trough of $1.2212, while the dollar index was a fraction firmer at 90.184.
In commodity markets, gold eased slightly to $1,332.05 an ounce, but stayed well within recent trading ranges.
Oil prices edged up with Brent crude futures for June rising 28 cents to $67.39 a barrel, while U.S. crude gained 23 cents to $62.29 a barrel.
Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Sam Holmes