Asia-Pacific markets set to trade lower as investors remain cautious over post-Brexit trade deal

Pedestrians are reflected in a window as they walk past an electronic stock board at the ASX Ltd. exchange centre in Sydney, Australia, on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019.

David Moir | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Asia-Pacific markets were set to trade lower on Tuesday as investors remained cautious over rising coronavirus cases, U.S. stimulus negotiations as well as Brexit talks between the U.K. and the European Union.

Nikkei futures pointed to opening losses in Japan.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 was down 0.1% in early trade as the heavily weighted financials subindex declined 0.53%. Energy stocks sold off as oil prices slipped in the overnight session on Monday. Shares of Santos fell 0.91%, Oil Search declined by 2.36% and Woodside Petroleum dropped 1.08%.

That follows a mixed overnight session on Wall Street and in Europe. U.S. futures fell on Monday evening after the market close.

“Markets had a mixed session overnight,” Cherelle Murphy from ANZ Research wrote in a morning note. “Negotiations over a new pandemic package continue in the US, while high (Covid-19) numbers and disappointing labour market data cast a shadow.” A deal is widely expected by mid-December, Murphy added.

“UK-EU trade talks appear to be on the brink of collapse, with news expected this morning,” Murphy said.

The U.K. and the European Union are making last efforts to reach a post-Brexit trade deal this week. Both sides remain divided over three issues: fisheries, competition rules and governance of their potential deal. They have been stuck on these three areas since early summer.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to travel to Brussels this week in a final push to clinch a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. Johnson will meet European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen in person after two phone calls between the leaders failed to bear fruit.

The British pound traded at $1.3353, down from an earlier level around $1.3377.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of its peers, last traded at 90.863, climbing from an earlier session low around 90.617.

The dollar is “caught between the near term headwinds of a ‘pull’ of rising (Covid-19) cases and simmering US‑China tensions and the ‘push’ of vaccines improving the medium‑term economic outlook and expectations for more US fiscal stimulus,” currency strategists at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia wrote in a morning note.

Elsewhere, the Japanese yen changed hands at 103.99 per dollar, strengthening from an earlier level around 104.08, while the Australian dollar traded fractionally lower at $0.7417.

Oil prices declined Tuesday morning during Asian hours: U.S. crude was down 0.17% at $45.68.

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