BEIJING — Asian stocks sank Wednesday after Wall Street plunged amid confusion about what Washington and Beijing agreed to in a tariff cease-fire.
KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 1.6 percent to 26,840.74 points and the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.7 percent to 2,647.55. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.4 percent to 21,946.94 while Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 retreated 1.2 percent to 5,641.50. Seoul's Kospi shed 0.6 percent to 2,102.17 and benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and Southeast Asia also declined.
WALL STREET: Investor confidence in the U.S.-China agreement faltered after confusing and conflicting comments from President Donald Trump and some senior officials. That revived fears that the disagreement between the two economic powerhouses could slow the global economy. The Standard & Poor's 500 slid 3.2 percent to 2,700.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.1 percent to 25,027.07. The Nasdaq composite lost 3.8 percent to 7,158.43. Tech companies, banks and exporters including Boeing and Caterpillar all declined.
TRADE TURMOIL: The Trump administration raised doubts about the substance of a U.S.-China trade cease-fire. That revived fears their tariff battle could chill global economic growth. Trump previously said the agreement in Buenos Aires would lead to sales of American farm goods and cuts in Chinese auto tariffs, but Beijing has yet to confirm that. Trump renewed threats of tariff hikes on Tuesday, saying on Twitter that Washington would have a "real deal" with China or else would charge "major tariffs" on Chinese goods. That made the weekend agreement seem even less likely to produce a long-lasting settlement.
FED WATCH: Markets got jolt from remarks by the president of the Fed's New York regional bank. During a briefing with reporters, John Williams said given his outlook for strong economic growth, he expects "further gradual increases in interest rates will best sponsor a sustained economic expansion." That seemed to counter Fed Chairman Jay Powell's remarks last week. The jitters helped drive demand for government bonds. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.91 percent from 2.99 percent late Monday, a large move. The slide in bond yields, which affect interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, weighed on bank stocks.
ANALYST'S TAKE: "Positive sentiment from the China-U.S. trade war truce dissipated quickly," said Eugene Leow and Radhika Rao of DBS Group in a report. "Questions on trade, worries about US growth and perceived dovishness on the Fed all play a part in explaining these market moves. Concerns were also compounded by increasing news narrative on inverted curves and risks of a recession."
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 53 cents to $52.72 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 30 cents on Tuesday to close at $53.25. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 63 cents to $61.45 per barrel in London. It gained 39 cents the previous session to $62.08.
CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 112.95 yen from Wednesday's 112.78 yen. The euro declined to $1.1330 from $1.1343.