Over the fortnight, US stocks erased losses from the earlier sell-off fuelled by concerns about the economy and the ongoing US-China trade war following Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s public remarks on 28 November 2018. Powell said the Fed’s current interest rates were “just below” the neutral level, a comment that many took as a sign that tightening cycle is nearing an end. Meanwhile, the Fed minutes on the following day emphasized a less certain policy path that may point to another rate hike in December.
Over the past two weeks, Dow Jones Industrial Average reversed the heavy losses and finished 0.2 percent higher at 25,338.84, the S&P 500 added 0.3 percent at 2,737.76 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.2 percent at 7,273.08.
Focus now turns to the high-stakes dinner between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, over the weekend on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Adding to the woes, Trump suggested that he would move ahead to raise tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese imports from current 10 percent to 25 percent and impose tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports should the pair fail to reach a deal.
Elsewhere in Asia, markets turned in a mixed performance with Shanghai Composite Index extending losses and shed 3.4 percent to 2,588.19. Led by US gains, Hang Seng Index rose 1.4 percent to close at 26,557.41 and Nikkei 225 added 3.1 percent at 22,351.06.
Over at the local front, Singapore’s Q3 GDP growth expanded at 2.2 percent, missing the 2.4 percent consensus forecast in part due to the ongoing US-China trade war. Manufacturing growth fell from 19.1 percent to 3.5 percent and services growth dropped from 3.5 percent to 2.4 percent. The construction sector contracted 2.3 percent due to continued slowdown in private sector construction activities.
In the same period, the Straits Times Index closed higher by 1.1 percent at 3,117.61, closing above the 3,000-point psychological support level.