Asian stocks advance as U.S., China resume trade talks

Asian stocks advance as U.S., China resume trade talks

Nikkei gains on mixed economic data; Hang Seng jumps

Asian markets were mostly higher on Friday as U.S. and Chinese officials kicked off a fresh round of trade talks in Beijing.

The Shanghai Composite index SHCOMP, +3.20% added 0.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng HSI, +0.96% jumped 1.7%. South Korea’s Kospi SEU, +0.59% gained 0.3%.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 NIK, +0.82% rose 1%. The country’s retail sales fell slightly in February from a month earlier, preliminary data showed. But industrial production rose 1.4%, as compared to January’s 3.4% decline. The unemployment rate beat market expectations, falling to 2.3% in February from 2.5% in the previous month.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +0.07% was up 0.2%. Shares rose in Taiwan Y9999, +0.99% and Singapore STI, +0.29% but fell in Indonesia JAKIDX, +0.56% .

Among individual stocks, SoftBank 9984, +1.90% and Rakuten 4755, +1.95% gained in Tokyo trading, and China Life Insurance 2628, +3.69% and CNOOC 0883, +2.65% advanced in Hong Kong. Samsung 005930, -0.45% slipped in Korea, while BHP BHP, +0.65% and Rio Tinto RIO, +1.56% rose in Australia.

U.S. negotiators, led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, attended a working dinner Thursday night with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who is expected to travel to Washington next week.

The three of them posed for a photo at a government guesthouse before negotiations resumed on Friday but did not talk to reporters.

“Investor eyes will be glued to news feeds looking for any more details — rumored or true — emerging from the talks. This could cause some abrupt intra-day volatility across the markets,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a market commentary.

News about the talks was read as largely positive by the markets. At a speech in Washington on Thursday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the U.S. administration was prepared to continue trade negotiations with China for weeks or even months. This was taken as a sign of commitment to reaching a deal.

On Wall Street, traders shrugged off a discouraging announcement by the Commerce Department. It said U.S. economic growth had slowed sharply in the last three months of 2018 to an annual rate of just 2.2%, due to weakness in consumer spending, business investment, government spending and housing.

Most indexes finished higher, as bond yields rose and financial, technology and industrial stocks climbed. The broad S&P 500 index SPX, +0.36% was 0.4% higher at 2,815.44. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.36% also gained 0.4% to 25,717.46. The Nasdaq composite COMP, +0.34% rose 0.3% to 7,669.17.

Benchmark U.S. crude CLK9, +1.20% added 35 cents to $59.65 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 11 cents to settle at $59.30 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude LCOK9, +1.02% , used to price international oils, edged up 37 cents to $67.47 per barrel. The contract shed 14 cents to $67.10 per barrel in London.

The dollar USDJPY, +0.13% strengthened to 110.78 yen from 110.63 yen.

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