Asian stocks mixed on US-China fears at start of quiet week

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets were mixed yesterday amid speculation over the next steps in a dispute between the United States (US) and China over technology development and trade following meetings in Washington last week.

Markets in mainland China are closed for the week for Lunar New Year celebrations. South Korean markets were closed for a holiday.

American and Chinese negotiators ended two days of talks in Washington last week without word of a deal, though those involved — including US President Donald Trump — were optimistic about the road ahead.

Trump said he plans to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to sort out contentious issues. “I think when Xi and I meet, every point will be agreed to,” Trump said, without specifying a date or location.

A tariffs cease-fire between the US and China is set to end on March 2, and the US is expected to raise import taxes from 10 per cent to 25 per cent for USD200 billion in Chinese goods.

“There is rising optimism on the trade talks between the US and China, although no details have been nailed down. The upside is limited as President Trump also mentioned that if the talks are not successful a new round of tariffs is imminent,” Senior Market Analyst at OANDA Alfonso Esparza said in a commentary.

A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo. – AP

KEEPING SCORE

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index edged 0.2 per cent higher to 27,990.21. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.5 per cent to 20,883.77 and Australia’s S&P ASX 200 gained 0.5 per cent to 5,891.20. New Zealand’s NZX index shed 0.2 per cent to 9,747.69. India’s Sensex was down 0.5 per cent at 36,298.89. Shares rose in Thailand but fell in Singapore and the Philippines.

WALL STREET

A strong jobs report showing that US employers added 304,000 jobs in January, far more than what analysts were expecting, lifted most major indexes on Friday.

But Amazon’s disappointing revenue outlook caused some traders to steer on the side of caution. The broad S&P 500 index rose added 0.1 per cent to 2,706.53 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 per cent to 25,063.89. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite lost 0.2 per cent to 7,263.87.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was 0.2 per cent higher at 1,502.05.

CHINESE DATA

A private survey released on Sunday suggested that China’s services activity slowed in January. The Caixin services purchasing managers’ index fell to 53.6 for the month, down from 53.9 in December, likely due to domestic conditions. Numbers over 50 indicate expansion on the index’s 100-point scale.

But new export sales grew at the fastest pace in more than a year, in a nod to an easing trade standoff with the US.

ENERGY

Benchmark US crude fell eight cents to USD55.18 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It added USD1.47 to settle at USD55.26 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up two cents at USD62.77 per barrel. The contract gained USD1.91 to USD62.75 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES

The dollar strengthened to 109.75 yen from 109.50 yen late Friday. The euro eased to USD1.1445 from USD1.1447.