Stocks

Asia stocks up slightly, eyes on US-China talks, Fed minutes

Reuters TOKYO | Updated on February 20, 2019 Published on February 20, 2019

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 per cent in early trade. Japan's Nikkei gained 0.4 per cent. File Photo   -  Reuters

In the Federal Reserve's January policy-setting meeting, policymakers took a dovish turn, effectively signalling no further rate hikes.

Asian stocks gained a tad on Wednesday after US-China trade talks resumed, while investors awaited minutes from the US Federal Reserve for clues on policymakers' thinking on interest rates and its balance sheet reduction policy.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 per cent in early trade. Japan's Nikkei gained 0.4 per cent.

In New York, the S&P 500 gained 0.15 per cent, helped by upbeat results from Walmart, while the Nasdaq rose 0.19 per cent, logging its seventh straight session of gains.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that trade talks with China were going well and suggested he was open to pushing off the deadline to complete negotiations, saying March 1 was not a “magical” date.

US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are currently scheduled to rise to 25 per cent from 10 per cent if no trade deal is reached by March 1.

Investors now expect Trump to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping next month to strike a deal.

“They will likely agree on China importing a larger amount of natural gas and agricultural products,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities, adding that China will also “open up a part of its domestic financial services and possibly some manufacturing sectors”.

But he predicted China “will not back down on so-called structural issues. The two countries may perhaps agree to set up a body to continue discussing those issues. Markets are already in the middle of pricing in these things.”

The two countries started a new round of talks to resolve their trade war on Tuesday, and sessions at a higher level are planned later this week, with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He visiting Washington on Thursday and Friday.

Investors also look to the release later on Wednesday of minutes from the Federal Reserve's January policy-setting meeting, where policymakers took a dovish turn, effectively signalling no further rate hikes.

New York Fed President John Williams endorsed such an outlook, telling Reuters on Tuesday he was comfortable with the level US interest rates are at now and that he sees no need to raise them again unless economic growth or inflation shifts to an unexpectedly higher gear.

In the currency market, the euro firmed to $1.1335, bouncing back from Friday's three-month low of $1.1234, on the back of improving risk appetites. The dollar stood flat at 110.50 yen, off Thursday's seven-week peak of 111.13.

The British pound soared to $1.3063 on Tuesday, gaining 1.09 per cent, a move some traders attributed to rising hopes Prime Minister Theresa May will make progress in seeking changes to her Brexit deal with the European Union.

The Chinese yuan firmed slightly to 6.7400 per dollar , its highest level in about three weeks. Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the US was seeking to secure a pledge from China that it will not devalue its yuan currency as part of a trade deal.

Oil prices held near three-month highs on tightening supplies, though their rally has stalled for now.

US crude futures stood at $56.04 per barrel, down 0.1 per cent, in early Asian trade. They hit a three-month high of $56.33 on Tuesday.

Gold traded at $1,228.30 per ounce, after rising to $1,341.9 on Tuesday.

Published on February 20, 2019
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor