Asian markets rise on China-US trade prospects

SINGAPORE (AP) – Asian shares were mostly higher yesterday after a report suggested that the leaders of China and the United States (US) could be endorsing a trade deal in weeks.

According to Bloomberg, US officials are preparing a final trade deal ahead of a summit between President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, which could take place as soon as mid-March. It cited unnamed sources close to the matter.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index picked up one per cent to 21,602.69 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.4 per cent to 28,738.72. The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.4 per cent higher to 2,953.02 and Australia’s S&P ASX/200 gained 0.4 per cent to 6,192.70.

Shares rose in Singapore and Indonesia but fell in Malaysia. South Korean and Taiwanese markets were closed for a holiday.

Traders hope that a tariffs battle waged by the world’s two largest economies would soon be called off if a deal is reached.

Trump and Xi agreed to a 90-day ceasefire in December last year after raising import taxes on billions of dollars of each other’s goods. The US was set to hit China with a fresh wave of tariffs once the agreement expires on Saturday.

Visitors stand in front of private stock trading boards at a private stock market gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. – AP

While progress on issues like Washington’s unhappiness over Beijing’s technology policy has been slow, Trump said he will postpone the tariffs to give the countries more time to talk. He did not say for how long.

Buying in Asia was supported by an announcement by MSCI, a leading provider of indexes and analytics. MSCI said it will quadruple the weight of Chinese A shares in its global indexes by November. It will also add more Chinese stocks to its Emerging Markets Index, giving the country’s foreign inflows a much-needed boost.

A private survey also added to Chinese growth hopes. The Caixin manufacturing purchasing manager’s index, which measures growth in the sector, jumped to 49.9 in February, from 48.3 in the previous month. The index is on a 100-point scale, with 50 separating contraction from growth.

This comes after China’s official manufacturing PMI fell 0.3 points to 49.2 in February, a three-year low.

WALL STREET: Stocks slid Thursday on news that the US economy slowed at the end of last year, although the performance still beat analysts’ expectations. The country’s gross domestic product expanded at a 2.6 per cent annual rate in the October-December period, down from 3.4 per cent in the third quarter. The S&P 500 index lost 0.3 per cent to 2,784.49 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3 per cent to 25,916.00. The Nasdaq composite shed 0.3 per cent to 7,532.53, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks also dropped 0.3 per cent to 1,575.55.

ENERGY: US crude added 44 cents to USD57.66 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It finished 28 cents higher at USD57.22 a barrel overnight. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 60 cents to USD66.91 a barrel. The contract gave up 27 cents to USD66.31 in  London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 111.77 yen from 111.39 yen on Thursday. The euro climbed to USD1.1374 from USD1.1371.