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

A man is reflected on an electronic board showing a graph analyzing recent change of Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo January 7, 2019. — Reuters pic
A man is reflected on an electronic board showing a graph analyzing recent change of Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo 7, 2019. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Feb 20 — Asian stocks gained a tad yesterday after US- 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- 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 US$200 billion (RM815.6 billion) worth of 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 yesterday, and sessions at a higher level are planned later this week, with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He visiting Washington tomorrow and Friday.

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

New York Fed President John Williams endorsed such an outlook, telling Reuters yesterday 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 shifts to an unexpectedly higher gear.

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

The British pound soared to US$1.3063 yesterday, 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 US dollar, its highest level in about three weeks.

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

US crude futures stood at US$56.04 (RM228.52) per barrel, down 0.1 per cent, in early Asian trade. They hit a three-month high of US$56.33 yesterday.

traded at US$1,228.30 per ounce, after rising to US$1,341.9 yesterday. — Reuters

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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