Asian shares waver as investors brace for U.S. elections

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares wavered on Tuesday with sentiment tempered ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, the first major electoral test of President Donald Trump's big tax cuts and hostile trade policies.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (MIAPJ0000PUS) edged down 0.1 percent, weighed by a fall in Chinese shares and technology stocks while Japan's Nikkei (N225) managed to gain 1.0 percent.

Shares in Asia-Pacific Apple suppliers, such as Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry (TW:2317), eased after Apple Inc (O:AAPL) lost 2.8 percent following a report in the Nikkei newspaper that Apple had told smartphone assemblers to halt plans for additional production lines dedicated to the iPhone XR.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 (SPX) gained 0.56 percent, with financials such as Berkshire Hathaway (N:BRKa) supported by strong earnings.

In oil markets, crude prices wobbled near multi-month lows after the United States granted eight countries temporary waivers allowing them to continue buying oil from Iran as Washington formally imposed punitive sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Ahead of Tuesday's U.S. elections, investors generally expect opposition Democrats to take over the House of Representatives while Trump's Republican Party is tipped to retain the Senate.

While political gridlock between the White House and Congress could hinder Trump's pro-business agenda and raise political instability, including hearings centring on the administration, some analysts say such an outcome may have already been priced in by investors.

If the Republicans retain their House majority, global stocks are likely to rally on hopes of more tax cuts.

Trump said last month his administration planned to produce a resolution calling for a 10 percent tax cut for middle-income households.

"Everyone still remembers strong equity rallies after Trump was elected two years ago. So initially stock markets will gain," said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) Securities.

"But further tax cuts would boost already large fiscal deficits and push the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield above its October high almost instantly. Given rises in U.S. bond yields triggered a correction in equities last month, any rally in stocks is unlikely to last long," he added.

The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield stood at 3.203 percent <us10yt=rr>, maintaining most of its gains following Friday's strong U.S. jobs and wage data and staying not far from its 7 1/2-year peak of 3.261 percent hit on Oct. 9.</us10yt=rr>

"Global equities have recovered after their fall in February, which was triggered by rise in U.S. yields. But this time a recovery will likely be capped because now markets do not have the support they had back in February from tame inflation and the economic boost from Trump's tax cuts," said Shuji Shirota, head of macro-economic strategy at HSBC in Tokyo.

Many investors also expect Trump to continue to take a hard line on trade, regardless of the outcome of the elections.

"The impact of trade war will start to appear in U.S. economic data in coming months," Shirota added.

But some other analysts noted that U.S. equities tended to rally after midterm elections, possibly because markets tend to price in political risks ahead of the elections.

In oil markets, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude (CLc1) futures slipped 0.3 percent to $62.86 a barrel after hitting a seven-month low of $62.52 on Monday.

Brent crude (LCOc1) futures dropped 0.3 percent to $72.93 a barrel, near Friday's 2 1/2-month low of $72.16.

Both oil benchmarks have slid more than 15 percent since hitting four-year highs in early October.

Moves in major currencies were modest.

The euro traded at $1.1408 (EUR=), about one cent above this year's low of $1.1301 touched on Aug. 15.

The yen <jpy=>changed hands at 113.28 per dollar, near its three-week low of 113.385 marked last Wednesday.</jpy=>

The British pound <gbp=d3>touched a two-week high of $1.3070 and last stood at $1.3058.</gbp=d3>

 

(This story has been refiled with corrected grammar and syntax errors in paragraphs 1-3)