Asian markets end week on a high

20 January, 2019 12:00 AM printer

HONG KONG: Asian markets rallied Friday as another broadly positive week drew to a close, with investors cheered by a report that the US was considering lifting tariffs on China as officials look to hammer out a trade deal.

Optimism that the world's top two economies are on course to reach a deal ending their long-running trade row has helped boost equities across the world this year, reports AFP.

And while news that the US was carrying out a criminal probe into Chinese tech giant Huawei caused a wobble Thursday, the rally resumed after the Wall Street Journal story on tariff-lifting broke.

The paper reported Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had raised the idea with Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer of removing some or all levies on Beijing in return for structural reforms.

It said the move was part of a bid to reassure markets and bolster the odds of a bigger trade deal, ending a months-long saga that is beginning to impact economies around the world, particularly China.

However, the Treasury Department told AFP that no formal recommendation had been made by either Mnuchin or Lighthizer in the talks, which were "nowhere near completion". Still, investors remained upbeat.

Hong Kong rose 1.3 percent and Shanghai ended 1.4 percent higher while Tokyo jumped 1.3 percent.

Sydney added 0.5 percent, Seoul gained 0.2 percent and Singapore put on 0.8 percent, while there were also advances in Wellington, Taipei and Manila.

In early trade London and Paris each put on 0.6 percent and Frankfurt was 0.7 percent higher

"The US government has said that there have been no formal talks to scale back tariffs, but the market saw the half glass full as the reports signal that concessions are in the works," said Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst at OANDA.

However, there was scepticism among analysts, with the two sides still far apart on a number of issues, particularly regarding intellectual property.

"Certainly evidence that the administration is approaching a deal would be good news," Laura Rosner, senior economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives, said. "We've heard noise around trade policy before though, so I would want to make sure the progress happens and sticks."