Asia stocks shake off G7 jolt, look to U.S.-North Korea summit outcome

Singapore stocks trader
A share market trader in Singapore Reuters

Asia stocks shook off initial modest losses and edged up on Monday ahead of a historic U.S.-North Korea summit that investors hope might pave the way to ending a nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.

Stocks wobbled in early trade after U.S. President Donald Trump raised fresh fears of a global trade war when he backed out of a joint Group of Seven communique over the weekend, in a blow to the group's efforts to show a united front.

The S&P 500 futures ESc1 were almost flat after dropping as much as 0.3 percent.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan.MIAPJ0000PUS slipped early but was last up 0.25 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng.HSI gained 0.3 percent while the Shanghai Composite Index.SSEC fell 0.3 percent.

South Korea's KOSPI .KS11 added 0.5 percent, and Japan's Nikkei .N225 climbed 0.7 percent.

"What took place at the G7 weekend was within the scope of earlier expectations. And while the countries disagreed on trade, they did seem to show a unified front on the North Korean issue, so there is also a positive element from the G7 affecting risk sentiment," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

After the G7 meeting, the U.S. president withdrew his support for its communique and raised fresh trade concerns by taking aim at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau amid a spat over import tariffs.

"The G7 meeting in Canada reiterated the growing rift between Washington and its allies over free trade," wrote Tai Hui, chief market strategist for the Asia Pacific at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

"Business confidence, and subsequently capital spending, is at risk if this tension continues through the summer," he said, adding that central bank meetings will be critical events this week.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will have an unprecedented meeting on Tuesday in Singapore, possibly laying the groundwork for ending a nuclear stand-off between the old foes.

Some analysts also raised the prospect of international sanctions against North Korea being lifted.

"There are many obstacles that will need to be overcome if a deal between the US and North Korea is to be agreed, not least a lack of trust between the two sides," Gareth Leather, senior Asia economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

"Nevertheless, the improvement in ties between the US and North Korea has at least made the possibility of a deal, which sees economic sanctions on North Korea being lifted, seem a little less far-fetched."

Investors also got prepared for a raft of other key events.

The Federal Reserve holds a two-day meeting starting on June 12, and it is widely expected to raise interest rates for the second time this year. The focus is on whether the central bank will hint at raising rates a total of four times in 2018.

The European Central Bank meets on June 14, when it could signal intentions to start unwinding its massive bond-purchasing programme.

The Canadian dollar, which has been dogged by fears Trump may scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), fell 0.25 percent to C$1.2959 CAD=D4 per dollar.

The euro EUR=, which was lifted last week amid the prospect of the ECB signalling its exit from easy policy, was 0.25 percent higher at $ 1.1801.

The dollar erased earlier losses to trade 0.2 percent higher at 109.76 yen JPY= as regional equities gained and the U.S. Treasuries yields rose ahead of a raft of auctions.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was 0.05 percent lower at 93.498 .DXY.

Oil prices were mixed, caught between the downward pull of rising Russian production and U.S. oil drilling activity, and upward pressure from strong demand. [O/R]

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were up 0.1 percent at $76.55 a barrel. U.S. crude futures