Asian markets were mixed in early trading Wednesday, after China’s central bank moved to ease fears of a full-blown currency war.
The People’s Bank of China early Wednesday set the daily reference point for the yuan at 6.9996 per dollar, a bit weaker than expected. The currency typically trades up to 2% higher or lower than that point. Trade tensions escalated Monday when the yuan passed 7 per U.S. dollar, crossing a “line in the sand” that sparked a global stock selloff and spurred the U.S. Treasury Department to label China a currency manipulator.
Stocks on Wall Street recovered Tuesday after suffering their worst day of the year on Monday. Market movements in Asia on Wednesday were significantly more muted than the previous two trading days.
Japan’s Nikkei NIK, -0.45% fell 0.8%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.37% retreated 0.7%. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.01% was down 0.2 while the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite 399106, +0.11% gave up modest early gains and retreated 0.2%. South Korea’s Kospi 180721, -0.06% slipped 0.7%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan Y9999, +0.28% , Singapore STI, +0.14% and Indonesia JAKIDX, +1.53% were mixed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +0.78% gained 0.3%, and New Zealand’s NZX 50 NZ50GR, +1.38% rose 0.9% after New Zealand’s central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by a half-percentage point to an all-time low of 1% as it forecast tougher economic conditions ahead.
Among individual stocks, Yahoo Japan 4689, +3.21% rose in Tokyo trading, while Honda Motor 7267, -0.86% and Japan Steel 5631, -4.59% fell. In Hong Kong, China Overseas Land & Investment 688, +1.41% gained while China Life Insurance 2628, -1.84% and Sands China 1928, -1.43% retreated. LG Electronics 066570, -0.83% fell while SK Hynix 000660, +2.36% gained. Commonwealth Bank CBA, -0.76% and Beach Energy BPT, -1.44% declined in Australia.
The S&P 500 index SPX, +1.30% rose 37.03 points, or 1.3%, to 2,881.77. The index dropped 3% on Monday, its worst loss since December. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.21% climbed 311.78 points, or 1.2%, to 26,029.52. The Nasdaq composite COMP, +1.39% gained 107.23 points, or 1.4%, to 7,833.27.
Global investors have grown nervous lately about the possible impact that a trade war between the U.S. and China could have on the economy and corporate profits.
But China’s decision to allow its currency to stabilize Tuesday suggests Beijing might hold off from aggressively allowing the yuan to weaken as a way to respond to U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.
“Markets have gone full circle again hoping for the best while preparing for the worst where even the tiniest gestures could see investors could respond more positively than warranted given how emotionally invested market participants are,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at VM Markets in Singapore.
Benchmark crude oil CLU19, -0.09% lost 12 cents to $53.51 a barrel. It fell $1.06 to $53.63 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude oil BRNV19, -0.12% , the international standard, fell 5 cents to close at $58.89 a barrel.
The dollar USDJPY, -0.35% rose to 106.10 Japanese yen from 106.40 yen on Tuesday.