Asian markets skid as China-U.S. trade tensions rise

TOKYO — Asian shares were mostly lower Friday in lackluster trading, as trade tensions between the U.S. and China offset optimism about more fiscal stimulus for the ailing U.S. economy.

Investors were also awaiting a U.S. report on jobs later Friday for another gauge of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. shares have been rising as investors also waited for Congress and the White House to reach a hoped-for deal on more aid for the American economy.

Asian benchmarks appeared to be still steeped in worries about the growing number of coronavirus cases in some areas, and the painful impact of lockdowns, especially in Southeast Asia.

“The hope is for a smooth recovery as lockdowns ease, but the fear is that global ‘second wave’ risks and rising U.S.-China tensions may throw a spanner at … recovery in the works,” said Hayaki Narita at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 NIK, -0.39% slipped 0.8%, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -0.61% sank 0.6%. South Korea’s Kospi 180721, +0.38% edged 0.2% lower. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng HSI, -1.60% slipped 2.2%, while the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.95% lost 1.5%.

Toyota Motor Corp. 7203, +1.14% shares gained nearly 2% in morning trading after Japan’s top automaker reported that it managed to stay in the black in April-June, despite plunging sales. Nintendo Co. stock also climbed, gaining 2.3%, after the Japanese video-game maker reported healthy profits as people stuck at home snatched up game software.

In Hong Kong, shares of Tencent 700, -5.04% sank after President Donald Trump issued an executive order that appeared to ban U.S. companies from doing business with the maker of WeChat after Sept. 20.

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.68% climbed 0.7%, to 27,386.98 after waffling between smaller gains and losses for much of the day. The Nasdaq composite COMP, +0.99% rose 1%, to 11,108.07 and set another record.

The day’s headline economic report showed that nearly 1.2 million workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. It would have been an astounding number before the coronavirus pandemic leveled the economy. But it’s a slight slowdown from the prior week’s tally, and it was also not as bad as economists were expecting.

It was also the first drop in jobless claims following two weeks of increases, and economists called it an encouraging step. But the threat of more business closures due to the continuing pandemic means the path remains treacherous.

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