Trump Trade Bombshell Wreaks Havoc in Asia

Asia stocks dropped on Friday after a surprise tariff announcement from the United States overnight escalated trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan peeled off 453.83 points, or 2.1%, to 21,087.16

In addition to the trade war-induced weakness around the region, Japan’s shares may have been dragged lower by heightening tensions between Tokyo and Seoul.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index tumbled another 647.12 points, or 2.4%, to 26,918.58.

Shares of Apple suppliers in Asia took a hit in Friday afternoon trade, following the fall in the Cupertino-based tech giant’s stockThursday stateside.

In Japan, component supplier Murata Manufacturing saw its stock drop 1.6% while South Korea’s LG Display fell 5.6%.

Over in Hong Kong, lens manufacturer Sunny Optical plunged 7.8%. Taiwanese chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company also fell 2% while Hon Hai Precision Industry — commonly known as Foxconn — declined 3.1%.

Apple has been among the companies caught in the crossfire of the ongoing U.S.-China trade fight, as it assembles iPhones and other products in China, leaving it at risk of being impacted by any tariffs placed on Chinese exports.

Japan’s cabinet on Friday approved a plan to remove South Korea from a so-called "white list" of countries that enjoy trade privileges with Tokyo. In response, South Korea’s finance minister said the country will take steps to drop Japan from its list of countries with fast-track export status.

Japan said Friday’s steps were based on national security concerns, citing Seoul’s insufficient export controls as well as the erosion of trust after South Korean court rulings ordered Japanese companies to compensate wartime forced labourers.

The Japanese yen, seen as a safe-haven currency amid global turmoil, saw strong gains against the U.S. dollar from the 109.2 handle yesterday. It last traded at 106.87.

Shares of major memory chipmakers in South Korea fell: Samsung Electronics declined 0.6% and SK Hynix was down 2.1%.

Manufacturing shares were also down: Steelmaker Posco fell 3.1%, Samsung Heavy Industries declined 2.3%, Hyundai Steel slipped 0.7% and Lotte Chemical dropped 1.7%.

Australian markets fell once again, despite the country posting its fastest retail sales growth in four months.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6798 after dropping from levels above $0.684 in the previous session.

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 slid 56.03 points, or 1.5%, to 3,747.44.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that the U.S. is putting 10% tariffs on another $300 billion worth of Chinese goods starting Sept. 1.

Responding to Trump’s latest salvo, China’s foreign ministry said Friday that the country does not want a trade war with the U.S. but is unafraid of fighting one.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi index faded 19.21 points, or 1%, to 1,998.13

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index dropped 30.64 points, or 0.9%, to 3,261.11

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index swooned 182.71 points, or 1.7%, to 10,549.04

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 inched higher 3.05 points to 10,863.87

In Australia, the ASX 200 ditched 20.35 points, or 0.3%, to 6,768.57