Asian markets steadied during Thursday’s Asian session after U.S. President Donald Trump hinted that he may reduce the tariffs for some strategic partners. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the proposed steel and aluminum tariffs could include “potential carve-outs…based on national security.” She expected President Trump to sign off on the tariff plan by sometime tomorrow. Trump is expected to provide a 30-day exemption on the tariffs to Mexico and Canada to provide additional time for the NAFTA negotiations to progress.
Investors remain concerned that U.S. tariffs could spur a trade war which would eventually reduce the global economy and undermine corporate profits. In addition to Mexico and Canada, Europe and China are among the biggest suppliers of steel and aluminum to the U.S. Earlier on Thursday China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said that if the tariffs were implemented China would respond appropriately, but that he maintained the view that a trade war would only be harmful for all.
Asian markets were broadly higher on Thursday after Wall Street closed up following Trump’s comments. The Hang Seng Index was among the biggest gainers, up 1.19 percent as of 2:05 p.m. HK/SIN. The Nikkei 225 was up 0.37 percent, the Kospi was up 0.53 percent and the ASX 200 was up 0.69 percent.
Oil prices also steadied on Thursday morning, boosted by healthy demand and reports that U.S. crude inventory build was not as big as expected due to a demand lull at the end of the winter. Still, prices remained pressured by reports of record U.S. crude production which can push prices lower in the near term. U.S. WTI futures were up a modest 0.03 percent to $61.17 per barrel while Brent was up 0.02 percent to $64.35 per barrel.