Asian markets fall after Trump dampens US-China trade hopes

Asian markets fell Monday as investors tried to make sense of the muddled state of US-China trade relations.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.8% in morning trade, while China’s Shanghai Composite declined 0.9%. South Korea’s Kospi slumped 0.8%. Japan’s Nikkei edged down 0.1%.

Monday was the first opportunity that markets in Asia had to respond to comments from US President Donald Trump, who said Friday in the United States that he has yet to agree to wiping tariffs. That undercut a statement from China’s Commerce Ministry that indicated openness to such a concession as part of the first phase of a trade deal between the two countries.

“They’d like to have a rollback,” Trump said. “I haven’t agreed to anything. China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, not a complete rollback because they know I won’t do it.”

A day earlier, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce told reporters that US and Chinese negotiators had discussed rolling back tariffs, saying the rollbacks could happen even before a “phase one” trade deal is signed.

Despite Trump’s remarks, Wall Street ended last week at record highs.

In Hong Kong, the city’s political crisis escalated again at the start of the work week when a traffic officer shot a protester in the chest early Monday morning, according to a police source.

Five months of mass demonstrations have disrupted Hong Kong’s economy and plunged the financial hub into its first recession in a decade.