Global stocks wobbled and China’s currency weakened as a tight US election set investors on edge amid growing prospects of a protracted and fraught battle to decide the next American president.
US stock futures for the blue-chip S&P 500 and the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite both fell 0.5 per cent in Asian trading on Friday, as both presidential candidates claimed they were ahead in the vote count.
Asia equity markets struggled for direction with Japan’s Topix index rising 0.8 per cent, mainland China’s CSI 300 virtually unchanged and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipping 0.2 per cent.
China’s onshore-traded renminbi dropped 0.5 per cent against the dollar to Rmb6.6319. The currency has been one of the most sensitive to the US election results and in recent weeks has been boosted by hopes of a victory for Mr Biden, the Democratic challenger, and a potential easing in tensions between Beijing and Washington.
“We have no doubt that when the count is over Senator [Kamala] Harris and I will be declared the winners,” Mr Biden said in a speech on Thursday, although he stopped short of declaring victory.
Mr Trump, whose initial lead has shrunk in some battleground states, repeated unverified claims of voter fraud. “If you count legal votes, I easily win,” he said.
On Thursday, Wall Street’s Nasdaq gained 2.6 per cent while the S&P 500 rose 1.9 per cent, with both benchmarks on track for their best week since April.
The performance gap between the two indices has widened in favour of the tech-focused Nasdaq, as expectations that Democrats could take control of the Senate have faded. That could reduce the likelihood that any win for Mr Biden would translate into a tough new regulatory regime for groups such as Facebook and Google.
The prospect of Republicans holding on to the Senate has also raised doubts over the likelihood of substantial fiscal stimulus to help cushion the coronavirus pandemic’s blow to the US economy.