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Asian markets flutter after Xi-inspired rally

US President Donald Trump welcomed Xi Jinping's 'kind words', which have soothed investor fears of a China-US trade war
AFP

Hong Kong (AFP) – Energy firms soared with oil prices in Asia on Wednesday but broader markets flitted between gains and losses after the previous day’s rally, with hopes that a China-US trade war will be averted providing support.

Wall Street provided a strong lead with all three main indexes up around two percent but regional dealers took a breather, with attention turning to the corporate earnings season, which is about to get under way.

Chinese President Xi Jinping soothed world markets on Tuesday with a conciliatory speech pledging to further open up the world’s number two economy, ease auto tariffs and take action on US intellectual property rights.

The measures address some of the key issues that have irked Donald Trump and came after the White House on Friday unveiled another round of levies on billions of dollars of Chinese goods.

His comments tempered worries about a potentially devastating trade war that could hammer the global economy just as it gets back on track after the financial crisis.

Trump tweeted that he was “Very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words”, adding “We will make great progress together!”

The Xi speech also followed a series of tit-for-tat threats by the US and China to impose retaliatory tariffs on one another that have rattled markets in recent weeks.

Asian markets were mixed. Tokyo ended the morning 0.2 percent down, Hong Kong added 0.6 percent and Shanghai was up 0.7 percent. Singapore gained 0.4 percent, Seoul edged down marginally and Taipei put on 0.4 percent. Sydney fell 0.3 percent and Wellington also slipped.

– Word of warning –

“In a market starved of good news, Xi’s dialled back trade war rhetoric was music to investor’s ears,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

However, he cautioned: “While investors are relishing this moment, trade war issues are not about to leave the political stage any time soon. In fact President Xi’s remarks, while conciliatory to tariffs, were restatements of previous pledges with no new compromises to President Trump.”

Energy firms were among the biggest gainers after a rally of more than three percent for both main oil contracts Tuesday.

The crude surge came on the back of easing trade worries as well as geopolitical concerns as Western governments consider their response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria, while the US is also toying with slapping Iran with sanctions.

Reports also said that oil kingpin and major OPEC member Saudi Arabia preferred to see prices at around $80 a barrel as it prepares for a gargantuan listing of its energy giant Aramco either this year or next.

Hong Kong-listed CNOOC and PetroChina were each around three percent higher and Sinopec was more than one percent up. Inpex surged three percent in Tokyo and Woodside Petroleum gained 1.4 percent in Sydney.

However, oil fell in Asia Wednesday ahead of the release of US stockpiles figures, with data suggesting there could have been a rise in the past week, indicating weak demand.

– Key figures around 0300 GMT – 

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 21,750.43 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.6 percent at 30,904.13

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.7 percent at 3,213.28

Euro/dollar: UP $1.2358 from $1.2354 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.14 yen from 107.19  

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4177 from $1.4174

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 15 cents at $65.36 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 23 cents at $70.81 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 1.8 percent at 24,408.00 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 1.0 percent at 7,266.75 (close)

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