Shares down

    78

    SHANGHAI- Asian equity markets were a tad lower as investors refrained from making major bets before Dec. 15, when the next round of US tariffs on Chinese imports is due to take effect.

    A Chinese Commerce Ministry official said on Monday that Beijing hopes to make a trade deal with Washington as soon as possible before new US tariffs are due to kick in this weekend.

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down just 0.04 percent as the Asian trading day began on Tuesday.

    Australian shares were also 0.04 percent lower, while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.23 percent.

    “The decision whether or not to raise tariffs on Dec. 15 rests with President Trump and he has continued his constructive ambiguity on the issue which is keeping markets guessing,” said Tapas Strickland, a director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank.

    Tepid trade followed weakness on Wall Street overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.38 percent to 27,909.6, the S&P 500 lost 0.32 percent to 3,135.96 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.4 percent to 8,621.83.

    Investors were also keeping an eye on the US Federal Reserve, which is expected to keep rates unchanged at its two-day policy meeting, which ends Wednesday.

    With rates likely to stay put, analysts say investors will be closely watching policymakers’ forecasts for future US economic growth.

    On Tuesday, the US two-year yield, watched as a sign of market expectations of Fed fund rates, was at 1.6191 percent, down from its close of 1.627 percent on Monday.

    The 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.8208 percent from a US close of 1.831 percent on Monday.

    Following the Fed, investors are likely to scrutinize the first policy meeting led by new European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde on Thursday for clues on where she will take the bank.

    While expectations of a Conservative Party victory in Thursday’s UK election have powered a rally in the pound, options markets indicate worries of a post-election retreat. – Reuters