Cautious trade

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    TOKYO- Asian stocks clung to tight ranges on Thursday as investors awaited key Chinese data for clues on how much the 16-month trade war between Beijing and Washington has hit growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.01 percent. Australian shares were up 0.12 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei stock index fell 0.02 percent.

    Dashing previously upbeat expectations about a resolution to the Sino-US trade war was a Wall Street Journal report that said negotiations had hit a snag over farm purchases.

    Worries about violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong also soured investor sentiment.

    In the cautious climate, the yen and the Swiss franc, two currencies considered safe-havens, held onto gains against the dollar.

    Investors are trying to determine whether the stimulus measures the Chinese government has taken so far are helping prevent further economic slowdown. However, complete confidence in the global outlook is unlikely to return until there is a lasting solution to the US-China trade war.

    “The markets have been pushing to new highs, but it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride,” said William O’Loughlin, portfolio manager at Rivkin Asset Management in Sydney.

    “The markets have realized that the news on trade is going to swing back and forth. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more weakness in China’s economy. I would want to see several months of improvement before I saw we’ve reached the bottom.”

    US stock futures fell 0.04 percent in Asia on Thursday after the S&P 500 eked out a 0.07 percent gain on Wednesday and closed at a record high, helped by a surge in Walt Disney Co shares. – Reuters