Asian stocks trade sideways after Trump tariff statement

Investor concerns over recent U.S.-China trade rhetoric have been in focus in the past month. Markets have been on edge over trade tensions potentially triggering a trade war between the two largest economies in the world.

“Capricious policies make for volatile markets,” Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Cresset Wealth Advisors, said regarding Trump’s latest statement on tariffs.

China on Wednesday unveiled plans for additional tariffs on 106 U.S. products. That came after the Trump administration released of its list of Chinese imports that could be targeted with proposed tariffs.

Although Trump’s Thursday announcement raised concerns that there could be more uncertainty ahead, some in the markets indicated that the move could also be part of Trump’s negotiation tactics.

The safe-haven yen firmed following the latest trade comments from Trump. Against the yen, the dollar traded at 107.13 by 9:43 a.m. HK/SIN, off levels around the 107.3 handle before the statement.

The dollar had touched its highest levels against the yen in three weeks in the overnight session amid improved investor confidence on Thursday.

“Markets are digesting the fact that most of the tough trade tariff talk is unlikely to result in action that will upset global growth or even come to fruition,” Richard Grace, chief currency strategist and head of international economics at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said in a morning note regarding the dollar’s overnight move higher.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against six peers, traded at 90.336.

In corporate news, Samsung Electronics said its first-quarter operating profit was expected to climb 57.6 percent compared to one year ago, Reuters said. The forecast profit of 15.6 trillion won ($14.7 billion) was above a Thomson Reuters estimate of 14.5 trillion won.

Samsung stock was last down 0.78 percent.

In economic news, the Reserve Bank of India held policy rates steady and reduced its inflation projection for the six months ending September.

Ahead, investors awaited the release of U.S. March nonfarm payrolls due during U.S. hours. Economists estimated around 193,000 jobs were likely added last month, according to a Reuters poll.

— CNBC’s Patti Domm contributed to this report.

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