Asian shares gain on hopes for progress on China-US trade

Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 By Elaine Kurtenbach, AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) — Share benchmarks were mostly higher in Asia on Tuesday as Chinese and U.S. negotiators geared up for trade talks in Washington this week.

U.S. markets were closed Monday for President's Day.

Shares in Shanghai and Hong Kong fell back after early gains after an industry association reported that auto sales fell nearly 16 percent in China from a year earlier, the eighth straight month of declines.

Analysts said much is riding on the outcome of the trade talks after an inconclusive end to an earlier round in Beijing last week.

"Without sounding like a damp squib, there is now a vast amount of optimism baked into currency, stock and energy market prices globally and precisely zero concrete detail," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for OANDA, said in a commentary.

"The unwind, should no deal be struck, could be very ugly," he said.

The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.3 percent to 2,747.77 in early trading, while Japan's Nikkei 225 edged 0.1 percent higher to 21,302.65. Australia's S&P ASX 200 climbed 0.3 percent to 6,106.90 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gave up 0.3 percent to 28,271.56. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.2 percent to 2,205.63. Shares were mostly higher in Southeast Asia.

A truce between the U.S. and China on increased American tariffs on Chinese good expires March 2, leaving the U.S. free to more than double its import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese goods.

Vice Premier Liu He, China's economy czar, is due to arrive in Washington on Thursday, China's state media reported, after two days of preliminary talks by lower-level officials.

President Donald Trump has said he may hold off on these if the country was close to a deal with China.

The U.S. is wrangling over trade with many nations. On Monday, the European Union warned that the bloc will hold back on a commitment to buy more American soybeans and liquefied gas if European cars are hit with punitive tariffs.

ENERGY: U.S. crude added 28 cents to $56.26 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.19 on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 14 cents to $66.36 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 110.66 yen from 110.60 yen on Monday. The euro slipped to $1.1299 from $1.1309.

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