Asian markets, currencies boosted by trade optimism | 2019-02-21

Asian markets, currencies boosted by trade optimism

21 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

HONG KONG: Growing optimism that China and the United States will reach a trade deal lifted most Asian equities Wednesday while the positive sentiment also provided support to regional currencies against the safe-bet dollar.

The yuan was among the big gainers following a report that the US has called on China to stabilise the unit as part of any agreement between the world’s top economic powers, reports AFP.

Wall Street returned from a long weekend to provide a healthy lead as US President Donald Trump said trade talks — which resumed in Washington Tuesday — were “going very well” but were “very complex”.

He also indicated he could put back the March 1 deadline for talks to be concluded — when US tariffs on Chinese goods are due to more than double —saying it is “not a magical date”.

Observers say that while there are no details about the negotiations the fact they are still talking and China appeared responsive to the call for yuan stability was good news.

Hong Kong rose one percent while Shanghai ended up 0.2 percent and Tokyo closed 0.6 percent higher.

Seoul, Taipei and Manila each climbed more than one percent, Singapore put on 0.4 percent and Wellington 0.3 percent. But Sydney slipped 0.2 percent.

The upbeat mood on trading floors gave investors confidence to buy higher-risk currencies, pushing the South African rand around one percent higher and Australia’s dollar up 0.7 percent. The yuan also climbed 0.7 percent.

The pound held its gains after strong British jobs and wages data, while it was also getting support from hopes that Prime Minister Theresa May could win changes to her Brexit deal with the European Union as she heads to Brussels later in the day.

While EU leaders have said they are not willing to bend on the agreement, analysts say there could be some movement that would help her push it through parliament and avoid a messy divorce that could hammer the British economy.