US-China trade, Hong Kong protests, currencies

Asia stocks were set to trade lower on Thursday following a report that an anticipated “phase one” trade deal between the U.S. and China may not be inked by the end of 2019.Futures pointed to a lower open for Japanese shares. The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 23,050 while its counterpart in Osaka was at 23,110. The Nikkei 225 last closed at 23,148.57.Meanwhile, Australian stocks declined in early trade, with the S&P/ASX 200 shed around 0.4%.Market reaction to overnight developments on U.S.-China trade will be watched.Reuters reported, citing trade experts and people close to U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, the completion of a partial trade deal could be pushed into 2020 as China seeks more extensive tariff rollbacks. That report came after The Wall Street Journal reported, citing former Trump administration officials, that the ongoing trade talks could hit an impasse.The developments come as Dec. 15 looms, with more tariffs on Chinese goods to the U.S. set to kick in.The matter was further complicated by U.S. Congress passing a Hong Kong rights bill, amid ongoing turmoil in the city that has been plagued by civil unrest for months. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing “condemns and firmly opposes” the first bill, known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.Shares on Wall Street declined overnight amid the trade uncertainty, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 112.93 points to close at 27,821.09. The S&P 500 shed 0.4% to end its trading day at 3,108.46 while the Nasdaq Composite closed 0.5% lower at 8,526.73.The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against its peers, was at 97.872 after seeing an earlier high around 98.0.The Japanese yen, often seen as a safe-haven currency in times of market uncertainty and turmoil, traded at 108.45 against the dollar after strengthening from levels above 108.6 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6798 after slipping from highs above $0.681 in the previous session.— CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.

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