Singapore, Oct 5 (AP/UNB) — Asian markets were mostly lower on Friday after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence claimed China had meddled with its midterm elections to unsettle the Trump administration, which Beijing has denied.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.8 percent to 23,784.64, and the Kospi in South Korea dropped 0.6 percent to 2,261.89. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 26,512.16. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 6,193.30. Stocks fell in Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia. Markets in Chinese mainland were closed for a national holiday.
WALL STREET: A sell-off in U.S. Treasury bonds, particularly longer term ones, sent interest rates sharply higher on Thursday. Fears that higher interest rates could eventually slow economic growth by making borrowing more expensive weighed on major U.S. indexes. The S&P 500 index gave up 0.8 percent to 2,901.61, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.7 percent to 26,627.48. The Nasdaq composite tumbled 1.8 percent to 7,879.51. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks was 1.5 percent lower at 1,646.91.
CHINESE MEDDLING: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused China of taking public and covert measures to interfere in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. This includes targeting Chinese tariffs to industries in states that are crucial to Trump, intimidating scholars, and coercing U.S. businesses to speak out against the Trump administration, he said. Pence charged that Russian influence operations in the U.S. "pales in comparison" to Chinese operations. "China wants a different American president," he said. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Pence's allegations were "groundless." Separately, Bloomberg reported that China had inserted tiny chips into computer equipment manufactured for the U.S. to steal its technology secrets, citing corporate and government sources. Apple has dismissed the report.
ANALYST'S TAKE: "Risk sentiments remain fragile, especially with overnight news about China's tiny chip hack and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's tough words on China's alleged interference in U.S. politics, which could point to a further escalation of the ongoing US-China trade war," said Selena Ling, chief economist at OCBC Bank.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 47 cents to $74.80 a barrel. The contract lost 2.7 percent to settle at $74.33 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 37 cents to $84.95 per barrel. It shed 2 percent to $84.58 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 113.91 yen from 113.86 yen on Thursday. The euro fell to $1.1506 from $1.1515.
Bangkok, Oct 4 (AP/UNB) — European shares followed Asian markets lower Thursday after yields on U.S. Treasury bonds surged to multi-year highs as U.S. central bank officials expressed confidence in the staying power of the current expansion.
KEEPING SCORE: The DAX in Germany lost 0.3 percent to 12,247.20 while in France the CAC 40 sank 0.8 percent to 5,450.10. Britain's FTSE 100 also tumbled 0.8 percent, to 7,448.91. The S&P future contact dropped 0.6 percent to 2,914.20 and the contract for the Dow lost 0.5 percent to 26,732.00, auguring a dismal start for Wall Street.
ASIA'S DAY: India's Sensex tumbled 2.2 percent to 35,237.49 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index sank 1.7 percent to 26,623.87. Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.6 percent to 23,975.32, while the Kospi in South Korea sank 1.5 percent to 2,274.49. Australia alone posted gains, as the S&P ASX 200 jumped 0.5 percent to 6,176.30. India's Sensex lost 1.8 percent to 35,332.22. Shares also fell in Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand. Markets in mainland China are closed for a weeklong holiday.
INDIAN SELL-OFF: Shares sank in India on concerns over continued weakness in the rupee and over the country's trade deficit thanks to surging costs for oil imports. Reports said the commerce minister planned to convene a meeting Thursday to discuss the problem. The rupee was trading at 73.71 to a U.S. dollar after hitting a record low of 73.81. The currency has lost 15 percent this year.
BONDS SURGE: The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note spiked to its highest level in more than seven years and was hovering at 3.22 percent during the Asian trading day. The surge in bond yields to multi-year highs has been driven by U.S. interest rate hikes, buttressed by bullish commentary from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and other U.S. central bank officials.
ANALYST'S VIEWPOINT: "Asian stocks are not faring so well which is not so untypical when the U.S. dollar strengthened markedly versus Asian currencies, notably vs the (Chinese) yuan, which is a crucial bellwether of local sentiment," Stephen Innes of OANDA said in a commentary.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 13 cents to $76.28 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped 1.6 percent to settle at $76.41 a barrel in New York. U.S. crude has hit four-year highs this week. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 14 cents to $86.15 per barrel. It rose 1.8 percent to $86.29 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 114.32 from 114.48 yen. The euro was flat at $1.1475.
Tokyo, Oct 4 (AP/UNB) — Japan's No. 1 automaker Toyota Motor Corp. and technology giant SoftBank Group Corp. are setting up a joint venture to create mobility services in what they called a "united Japan" effort to face global competition.
The venture, Monet Technologies Corp. is meant to be running by the end of March. It will work on on-demand vehicle services, food deliveries and hospital shuttles with onboard medical exams, the companies said Thursday in a news conference at a Tokyo hotel.
"This may look like an unusual combination," SoftBank's executive in charge of technology, Junichi Miyakawa, acknowledged, referring to the odd-couple union of an old-style manufacturer like Toyota with a relative newcomer like SoftBank. The energy and telecoms company's past tie-ups have tended to be with overseas startups.
"But Japan must compete with the rest of the world. That is why we are shaking hands today," Miyakawa said after shaking hands with his counterpart at Toyota, Shigeki Tomoyama.
Tomoyama said the joint venture will deliver services that combine Toyota's manufacturing know-how with SoftBank's technology prowess, which includes the Internet of Things, IoT, technology.
The services will roll out in Japan first, but a global expansion is in the works, the companies said.
Toyota is developing autonomous vehicles in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Monet plans to roll out a business featuring autonomous vehicle services by the second half of 2020, they said.
Automakers around the world are forming tie-ups in the race to develop the next-generation of transportation, such as self-driving cars.
Earlier this week, Toyota's Japanese rival Honda Motor Co. said it was investing $2.75 billion in GM Cruise, an autonomous-vehicle unit run by General Motors Co. of the U.S.
Geneva, Oct 3 (AP/UNB) — Alibaba founder Jack Ma said Tuesday that the trade dispute between the U.S. and China could last 20 years. But he expressed hope that a solution could be reached as a trade war would "hurt everybody."
The Chinese e-commerce billionaire also questioned the focus among some on trade deficits, calling it a relic of the 20th century. U.S. President Donald Trump has long decried the U.S.'s whopping deficit with China.
"When trade stops, sometimes the war starts. So trade is the way to stop wars," Ma said at a World Trade Organization seminar. "Trade is the way to build up trust. It's not the weapon to fight against each other."
He said trade conflict would not only hurt the U.S. and China but other countries' small businesses. The standoff, he added, "may last 20 years, unfortunately."
Overall, Ma expressed bullishness about trade, but said it needed to be protected from regulators.
"Today we see Made in China, Made in America, Made in Switzerland or Made in Geneva: 2030 will see Made in Internet." More than 85 percent of business will be e-commerce, he said.
Alibaba Group is the world's biggest e-commerce company by value of the goods that pass across its platforms.
A key part of its business is connecting American retailers with Chinese suppliers, many of them small producers of furniture, handbags, tools and household appliances. The United States is an important market for Chinese businesses and Washington's tariff increases have been a hit.
The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of Chinese goods, prompting retaliation from Beijing.
Ma, 54, is one of China's most prominent and outspoken business leaders. He announced last month he will step down as Alibaba's chairman next September but will stay on as a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a group that retains control of the company through their right to nominate a majority of its board of directors.
Dhaka, Oct 3 (AP/UNB) - Vehicle sales are slowing down despite a run on big SUVs.
Major automakers said Tuesday that U.S. sales fell 7 percent in September and 4 percent for the June-through-September quarter, compared with the same periods last year.
Weaker numbers for September and the third quarter wiped out a 1.8 percent gain during the first half of the year, and left auto sales on pace with 2017. Some analysts had cautioned that the first-half gains were driven by incentives and low-margin sales to fleet buyers like rental car companies.
Industry officials blamed the recent weakness partly on hurricanes — in both 2017 and 2018.
Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle suggested that the September numbers were hurt by Hurricane Florence, which flooded parts of the Carolinas. That made it tougher to compete with September 2017, when sales were boosted by owners replacing cars after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he said.
Edmunds analyst Jeremy Acevedo also noted that while prices and interest rates for auto buyers are rising, favorable credit deals are getting harder to find.
"The trickle-down effect of elevated interest rates really started hitting car shoppers in September," he said.
General Motors Co.'s chief economist, Elaine Buckberg, predicted 2018 will be the fourth-straight year with industry sales above 17 million vehicles. She said a new trade agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada will ease uncertainty for the auto industry, and consumer confidence remains high because of the strong job market.
Confidence might explain why more consumers are gravitating toward SUVs and trucks despite having to spend more for gasoline to keep them running.
Ford said September sales of Lincoln Navigators — a tiny fraction of the company's sales — soared 77 percent, and they stayed on dealer lots for an average of just 12 days. At General Motors, a 12 percent gain in combined sales of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon large SUVs helped push the company's average transaction price up by $700.
Meanwhile, Ford reported that sales of cars plunged 25.7 percent in September, compared with a 9.9 percent drop for pickups and a 2.7 percent dip for SUVs.
Jack Hollis, general manager of the Toyota division in North America, said on a call with reporters that the industrywide ratio of truck and SUV sales to car sales is nearing 70-30, adding that he is "not so sure that it's stopping quite yet."
While industry officials expressed optimism in the economy, automakers have other concerns.
New U.S. tariffs on imported steel and aluminum could increase their costs. A new trade deal also could make vehicles more expensive by raising the amount of content required from North America to avoid duties, and requiring that at least 40 percent of a car's content be built where workers earn $16 an hour.
Here is how major automakers fared at U.S. sales in the third quarter, according to Edmunds, which provides content, including automotive tips and reviews, for distribution by The Associated Press:
— General Motors, down 11 percent to 694,638.
— Toyota, down 6 percent to 634,923.
— Ford, down 4 percent to 606,939.
— Fiat Chrysler, up 10 percent to 564,507.
— Honda, down 5 percent to 419,173.
— Nissan, down 9 percent to 343,987.
— Subaru, up 4 percent to 180,558.
— Hyundai, up 1 percent to 166,653.
— Kia, down 2 percent to 158,479.
— Volkswagen, up 2 percent to 93,330.
— BMW, down 1 percent to 83,236.
— Mercedes-Benz, down 14 percent to 77,965.
— Mazda, down 10 percent to 71,198.