Containers filled with goods ready for trade are reflected in glass. (Photographer: Martin Divisek/Bloomberg)

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The U.S. and China are back at the negotiating table on trade, Thailand is gripped by political risks once again ahead of an election, and China returns after a week-long Lunar New Year holiday with positive market sentiment likely to come under pressure. Here’s what traders are watching today. 

Trade Talks … Again

China said Vice Premier Liu He will join U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in high-level trade talks between the two countries this week. The U.S. working team is set to arrive in Beijing on Monday and the two sides will discuss issues of common concern as they build on talks that took place in Washington in late January, China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. It gave no further details of the talks that will take place on Feb. 14-15.  This round of talks is of particular significance as President Donald Trump has said he’s unlikely to meet President Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline to avert higher American tariffs on Chinese goods. 

Thailand’s Escalating Political Risk

Thailand’s political divisions are erupting again with just over a month to go to the first general election since a coup almost five years ago. The spotlight is now on the fate of a party linked to exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra. The party, Thai Raksa Chart, saw a stunning bid to make Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya its prime ministerial candidate rapidly unravel Feb. 8 when her brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, publicly opposed the move. The Election Commission will meet today as calls grow for the party to be dissolved in a country used to treating top royals as semi-divine and apolitical.

Test for China’s Bullish Mood

The bullish mood that was starting to build in China will be tested when markets reopen Monday as concern over the U.S. trade relationship resurfaces. For clues on how investors may react, look to Hong Kong, where Chinese equities just had their first back-to-back loss of the year and the offshore yuan fell against the dollar over the week. A drop in a U.S. fund tracking A shares also indicates caution could spread onshore after the five-day break, while the greenback’s run of gains is likely to weigh on China’s currency. The CSI 300 Index rose 7.9 percent this year through Feb. 1, reversing its December losses as investors took comfort from Beijing’s measures to support the slowing economy and risk assets gaining favor around the world. 

Markets Open

Asian stock futures are narrowly lower after U.S. shares ended virtually unchanged Friday, with investors wary over the prospect of China trade talks. Treasury yields ended last week mired in a four-day slump. The dollar was mostly higher, with the Aussie among the laggards. Oil was little changed and gold stayed above $1,300. Traders will be anticipating trade developments from the talks in Beijing. On the data docket, watch out for:  Australia reports on home loans and business sentiment on Tuesday and we get India CPI; New Zealand’s central bank first policy meeting of the year comes Wednesday; Valentine’s Day, Thursday, will see Japan GDP and Chinese trade, while Friday has China CPI and PPI. 

Another Shutdown Looms

Talks to avert a new U.S. government shutdown over funding for border security funding broke down late on Saturday, according to lawmakers and aides. Republicans and Democrats are not communicating for now, imperiling the prospects for a deal as time runs short. Negotiations could still get back on track, but the prospect of getting a deal by Friday’s deadline seem to have derailed just as lawmakers thought they were on track to reach a compromise.

What We’ve Been Reading

This is what’s caught our eye over the weekend

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