Investors are keeping an close eye on the progress of China-US trade talks

Hong Kong (AFP) - Asian and European markets fell on Friday at the end of a healthy week, with uncertainty surrounding the China-US trade talks following China’s announcement of a plan with Washington to roll back tariffs.

News out of Beijing that it had agreed a deal with Washington to start removing levies if negotiations progress fired a rally in late business on Thursday, and helped the Dow and S&P 500 to more records.

The announcement fanned hopes the world’s economic superpowers – who are currently finalising a mini trade pact as part of a wider deal – can resolve their long-running tariffs war that has hobbled the global growth outlook.

It also eased worries about the negotiations caused by reports that a hoped-for signing ceremony this month between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could be delayed until December.

“The elevation of discussion from a trade truce to a possible tariff rollback is important and suggests both China and the US have come under pressure to seal a deal,” National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland said in a note.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told the Fox News Channel: “I cannot get ahead of the talks with China, but we are very, very optimistic that we will reach a deal soon.”

However, a report said there was some opposition within the administration to such a move.

And Trump trade adviser and China hawk Peter Navarro told Fox Business “there is no agreement at this time to remove any of the existing tariffs as a condition of the phase one deal. The only person who can make that decision is Donald Trump”.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said: “There a strong sense of the ‘if’ about this. If a first phase trade deal is done, there is agreement to roll back some existing tariffs, but only if the deal is agreed. Usual story – mixed reports really all just noise.”

- Pound subdued -

Adding to the malaise was a certain amount of profit-taking after another strong week across equity markets, which have been on a rally since last month as the trade talks showed progress.

Hong Kong fell 0.7 percent following a six-day advance, while dealers in the city were bracing for a fresh weekend of protests after the death of a student who sustained head injuries when he fell during clashes with police.

Shanghai gave up 0.5 percent after data showed Chinese exports and imports fell again last month, though not as quickly as expected, while Singapore was off 0.9 percent and Seoul retreated 0.3 percent.

Taipei lost 0.2 percent, Manila was down 0.7 percent and Jakarta gave up 0.1 percent.

Mumbai fell 0.2 percent and India’s rupee sank 0.5 percent after Moody’s lowered its ratings outlook on the country’s debt.

In early trade, London and Frankfurt dipped 0.4 percent, while Paris slipped 0.3 percent.

The pound remained subdued after taking a hit on Thursday from an economic growth downgrade for 2020 by the Bank of England that fuelled speculation it could cut interest rates soon.

The central bank kept rates on hold but the decision was split for the first time in more than a year, with two dissenters calling for a reduction in borrowing costs to fend off the feared downturn.

- Key figures around 0920 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 23,391.87 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.7 percent at 27,651.14 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 2,964.18 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,378.59

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2814 from $1.2813 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.25 pence from 86.23 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1050 from $1.1049

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.34 yen from 109.29 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 52 cents at $56.63 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 58 cents at $61.71 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 27,674.80 (close)