SINGAPORE: Singapore’s stock market closed at a nine-month low on Tuesday (Jun 19) as investors around Asia went on a selling spree amid the escalating trade dispute between the United States and China.
Hostility over trade between the world's two largest economies intensified on Tuesday when Trump threatened to impose a 10 per cent tariff on US$200 billion of Chinese goods, prompting a swift warning from Beijing of retaliation
Asian stocks wilted to a four-month low and Europe's main equity benchmarks sank 0.5 per cent to 1.3 per cent in early trading, while Wall Street futures pointed to similar falls there later.
"It's the darkest hour and the most agonising moment in the first half of this year...there are disaster victims everywhere," Zhang Yidong, strategist at Industrial Securities, wrote in a note.
China had warned it will take "qualitative" and "quantitative" measures if the US government publishes an additional list of tariffs on its products.
The trade frictions have unnerved financial markets, with investors and businesses increasingly worried that a full-blown trade battle could derail global growth.
"Trump appears to be employing a similar tactic he used with North Korea, by blustering first in order to gain an advantage in negotiations," said Kota Hirayama, senior emerging markets economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.
"The problem is, such a tactic is unlikely to work with China."
GREAT FALL OF CHINA
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.9 per cent to its lowest since early December. The losses had intensified through the day as the rout deepened in China.
The Shanghai Composite Index slumped nearly 5 per cent at one point to its lowest level since mid-2016 before finishing the session down 3.8 per cent.
Stirring memories of the 2015 equity market crash, more than 1,000 stocks slumped by their 10 per cent daily limit as Chinese investors dumped stocks across the board, which sent jitters through China's retail investment community.
"It will have a big effect on us normal people," said Gu Xiaoliang, a 31-year-old personal investor, who was watching market prices at the entrance of the Shanghai Stock Exchange in the city's financial district
"As an investor, I am not optimistic with my investments. Right now, I don't have clear judgement so I'm just going to wait and see."
China's economy is already clouded by a sharp slowdown in fixed asset investment growth due to the government's deleveraging drive, a problematic property sector, a mounting debt burden and rising credit defaults
Economists at Nomura wrote: "The rising risk of a disruptive trade conflict makes a bad situation tentatively worse."
Hong Kong stocks were also hit hard, with the benchmark Hang Seng index dropping nearly 3 per cent to its lowest closing level in six months.
In Singapore, the Straits Times Index closed 0.68 per cent lower at 3,301.05, the lowest close since 3,280.28 in Oct 11 last year. This takes STI’s year-to-date performance to a fall of 2.98 per cent.
The top active stocks were DBS, which declined 0.59 per cent, UOB, which gained 0.64 per cent, Singtel, which declined 0.31 per cent, OCBC Bank, which declined 1 per cent and Venture, with a 4.94 per cent fall.
Japan's Nikkei lost 1.8 per cent, South Korea's KOSPI retreated 1.3 per cent while Australian stocks bucked the trend and added 0.1 per cent, helped by a depreciating currency and an overnight bounce in commodity prices.
"Escalation (of trade tensions) is a sort of impossible thing to forecast, but if it stops at this level you have probably created some nice risk premia in Asia and emerging markets," said Hans Peterson, global head of asset allocation at SEB Investment Management.
"So if it doesn't get worse it is probably a buying opportunity."