Asian Shares Weaken on Trade Worries, Bonds Recover as China Rebuts Report

NEW YORK, Jan 10 (Reuters) - The three major U.S. stock indexes ended lower on Wednesday after a choppy trading session as investors anxious that China would slow U.S. government bond purchases and that U.S. President Donald Trump would end a key trade agreement.

"China is the largest single foreign holder of USA debt, but their incremental changes tend to be small relative to other flows in the market and in recent years some periods where holdings have fallen correspond with risk-off moves that see yields move lower, sometimes helped by fears over China growth", he said. It said investments in Treasuries are decided by market conditions.

At 5 p.m., the dollar stood at ¥111.78, down from ¥111.94 at the same time Wednesday. That involved active selling of USA bonds - at the start of 2014 China's US bond holdings stood at $1.3 trillion and by January past year were barely $1.0 trillion.

If markets are to crash, recent history suggests China's activity in US bonds is unlikely to be the trigger. Measured by daily trading ranges, past year was the least volatile on record for the S&P 500 as US and global stocks hit a series of record highs.

A forthcoming decision from Washington over whether to impose sanctions against China for its trade practices and alleged failure to enforce worldwide sanctions against North Korea may also have been at play.

The Australian dollar touched its highest levels in almost three months at $0.7887 after data showed that Australian retail sales recorded the biggest monthly rise in four years in November. China has total reserves of just over $3 trillion.

The BOJ maintained the amount of its bond purchases on Thursday, helping to soothe a market rattled by its reduction earlier this week.

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This week's bond wobble comes as President Donald Trump looks to balance its huge trade surplus with China, and as Washington loses patience with Beijing over its handling of the North Korea nuclear crisis.

Chinese authorities ordered the closing of operations that create a large share of the world's supply of bitcoin, tightening a clampdown that has already shuttered exchanges for the trading of cryptocurrencies in China. The Fed holds $3.015 trillion of Treasuries for other central banks, down from $3.052 trillion in September. "That helps explain the demand picture which has oil up at $70", said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman, in NY. "That doesn't mean that it is".

Rising Treasury yields can pressure prices for gold, but the dollar's slide helped gold shrug off the impact.

Coming into this year, strategists at Wells Fargo and some other banks were expecting China's Treasuries buying to ebb as they predicted stability in the yuan after a 2017 rally.

China Premier Li Keqiang said China's economy grew by about 6.9% previous year, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.

"The dollar was already notably weak ahead of today, despite the fact that US data remained strong and yields continued to rise", said Boris Schlossberg, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management in NY. "And when it comes to the heightened political interaction between China and the US, there has always been this tension".

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