By Swati Pandey
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares are set for a soft start on Friday as global risk appetite deteriorated on worries the European Central Bank was ready to start tapering its massive stimulus, although trade was expected to be cautious ahead of big diplomatic meetings.
The ECB will debate next week whether to end bond purchases later this year, the bank’s chief economist said on Wednesday, a hawkish message that sent the euro to a three-week top, hit emerging market currencies, and spurred demand for safe-haven bonds.
“Markets are having to rediscover how to price risk amid reduced central bank buying and that adjustment could prove very hard,” said Matt King, Citi’s global head of credit strategy.
Another reason for market nerves was the widening rift between the United States and its major trade partners after President Donald Trump imposed import tariffs on steel and aluminum imports last week.
Trump seemed in no mood to reconcile when he tweeted, just one day before a Group of Seven summit, that France and Canada imposed “massive tariffs” on their imports from the United States and had non-monetary barriers to trade.
The summit takes place on Friday and Saturday in Charlevoix, Quebec.
Uncertainty over how the trade discussions would pan out weighed on stocks and other risk assets overnight, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq ending lower. A global trade war threatens the world economy’s first synchronous upturn in several years.
E-Minis for the S&P500 and Dow futures were both down about 0.1 percent in early Asian trade on Friday. Nikkei futures slipped 0.6 percent while Australian share futures ticked 0.1 percent lower.
In emerging market currencies, the South African rand, Brazil’s real and the Mexican peso were the worst hit overnight.
Risk appetite also waned after U.S. jobless claims pointed to a further tightening in labor market conditions, cementing expectations the Federal Reserve will raise benchmark U.S. rates next week and twice again later in the year.
Investors were waiting for a historic U.S.-Korea summit in Singapore on June 12 where the main issue is whether North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons program.
The U.S. dollar held near three-week lows against a basket of currencies despite the positive jobless numbers.
The euro paused at $1.1797 after four straight session of gains took it to the highest level since mid-May.
The dollar was also subdued against the safe-haven Japanese yen 109.69, down from as high as 111.39 touched just last month.
In commodities, copper hit a 4-1/2-year high Wednesday on concerns over the potential that wage negotiations at the world’s biggest copper mine could disrupt supply.
Oil prices were boosted by from worries over a steep drop in exports from crisis-plagued Venezuela, which faces the threat of U.S. sanctions.
U.S. crude rose 6 cents to $66.01 a barrel, while Brentsettled at $77.32.
Spot gold was steady at $1,347.7 an ounce.
(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Eric Meijer)