Foreign flows into Asian equities falter

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BENGALURU — Foreigners were net buyers of Asian equities for the fourth straight month in April, but analysts doubt such inflows could be sustained amid an escalating tariff war between the world’s top two economies.

The United States raised levies on Friday to 25% from 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and Beijing said it would strike back in the midst of last-ditch talks to rescue a trade deal.

Foreign investors have sold $2 billion worth of Asian equities so far this week after a net $11.23 billion purchase last month, data from stock exchanges in South Korea, Taiwan, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam showed.

“Heightened risk sentiment on the back of a twist in US-China trade negotiations certainly does not serve Asia equities well,” said Jingyi Pan, a Singapore-based market strategist with financial services firm IG.

Some market participants still hold out hopes of a Sino-US trade deal as negotiators in Washington agreed to stay at the table for a second day.

“The question would be how long negotiations would sustain and for how long we will have the latest tariffs in place,” Pan said, adding that foreign outflows would likely be congruent with the time taken to resolve the trade spat.

In April, Indonesian equity markets led the region with a foreign inflow of $3.75 billion, largely driven by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group’s move to raise stakes in Bank Danamon Indonesia and Bank PT Bank Nusantara Parahyangan.

India received about $3 billion of foreign money on expectations Prime Minister Narendra Modi will come back to power in the seven-phase election that winds up on May 19, and on hopes the central bank will cut policy rates further to prop up the economy.

Foreigners invested $2.2 billion and $1.8 billion in South Korean and Taiwanese markets respectively, last month.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares posted its fourth straight monthly gain in April on optimism that the United States and China were inching towards a trade deal.

But this month, the index has declined over three percent. — Reuters