Asian shares mostly higher as China-US trade talks drag on

|    Elaine Kurtenbach    |

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mostly higher in Asia yesterday as investors awaited further developments in trade talks between the United States (US) and China.

The Shanghai Composite jumped 1.9 per cent to 3,026.99 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.9 per cent to 28,494.76. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.5 per cent to 21,125.09 and the S&P ASX 200 in Australia slipped 0.4 per cent to 6,180.20.

Weaker than expected Chinese loan and money supply data raised expectations of further action to spur the slowing economy.

The 885.8 billion yuan (USD132 billion) in new loans in February reported yesterday was below forecasts and much lower than the 3.23 trillion yuan in new lending in January.

Elsewhere in Asia, India’s Sensex surged 0.9 per cent to 37,002.36 while South Korea’s Kospi was flat at 2,138.10. Shares were lower in Singapore but rose in Jakarta, Bangkok and Taipei.

It was a steady start for the week after a wave of selling on Wall Street on Friday left the S&P 500 with its worst weekly showing since January and its eighth loss in nine trading sessions.

The sell-off followed a surprisingly weak jobs report and more signs that the global economy is hitting the brakes.

The S&P 500 dropped 0.2 per cent to 2,743.07. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.1 per cent to 25,450.24.

The Nasdaq composite declined 0.2 per cent to 7,408.14 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 0.1 per cent, to 1,521.88. Major European indexes also closed lower.

US and Chinese officials said the trade talks are making progress but no formal agreements or details of negotiations have been released.

China’s central bank governor on Sunday affirmed an official promise to avoid manipulating its currency to boost exports, an issue he said American and Chinese negotiators discussed in the latest talks in Washington aimed at ending a conflict over Beijing’s technology ambitions that has prompted both sides to raise tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods.

Speaking at a news conference during the meeting of China’s ceremonial legislature, Yi Gang gave no indication the two sides had reached agreements beyond previous commitments produced by meetings of the Group of 20 major economies.

US complaints that Beijing manipulates the yuan’s government-controlled exchange rate for a trade advantage have taken a backseat lately to frustration at its industrial policy.

But American officials have long pressed China to allow the yuan to fluctuate more freely in response to market forces.

“’We stress that we will never use the exchange rate for competitive purposes, nor will we use it to boost China’s exports,” Yi said.

He repeated official promises that China’s stock and bond markets would open wider to global investors and its currency would trade more freely but gave no details or a timeline.

The yuan’s value sank this year, coming close to breaking the symbolic level of seven per dollar before rebounding slightly to about 6.7 to the greenback.

“Our exchange rate is relatively stable. But at the same time, that stability does not mean the exchange rate is fixed,” said Yi.