Asian markets swing with trade in focus, Hong Kong extends gains

19 Nov 2019 / 11:04 H.

HONG KONG: Asian markets fluctuated Tuesday as investors keep tabs on the developments in the China-US trade talks after a report said Beijing was concerned about the outlook.

Hong Kong extended Monday's rally but continuing protests in parts of the city -- particularly a violent standoff at a university -- remained a source of worry.

Regional traders were given another strong lead from Wall Street, where all three main indexes ended at new records on hopes for a good holiday shopping season with the key Black Friday sales day coming next week.

World equities have broadly been on the rise in recent weeks on optimism that the world's top two economies will eventually hammer out a mini trade deal as part of a wider agreement.

However, there have been bumps in the road and the latest came Monday when CNBC reported that China was pessimistic about the chances of a pact because Donald Trump is not in favour of rolling back tariffs.

Trump last week denied claims by Beijing that the two sides had put in place a plan to remove levies as the talks progress.

The report again highlighted the fragile nature of the negotiations.

"Investors have little option but to keep pace with the rapid shifts on the US-China phase-one deal, attempting to make sense of the many comments -- official and from press 'sources' -- on whether a rollback was now genuinely on the table," said Stephen Innes at AxiTrader. "Ultimately they remain hostage to these developments."

He added: "With the constant stream of trade talk confusion, it makes one wonder if anyone is even remotely on the same page."

'Devil in the detail'

In early trade, regional markets swung in and out of positive territory.

Shanghai added 0.5 percent, Sydney, Wellington and Manila each rose 0.3 percent, while Taipei and Jakarta both added 0.2 percent.

But Tokyo ended the morning 0.1 percent lower, while Singapore lost 0.7 percent and Seoul shed 0.6 percent.

Despite the latest news, National Australia Bank's Rodrigo Catril said he was still betting on an agreement being reached.

"The negotiations remain ongoing (and) a phase-one deal looks more likely than not, but as usual the devil will be in the detail," he said in a commentary. "The more tariff rollbacks we get, the better for market sentiment and global growth outlook."

Hong Kong rose one percent, having jumped more than one percent Monday, as traders shift back into buying following last week's losses of around five percent.

The gains come as the widespread protests that hammered the city's transport network last week have been less disruptive over the past two days.

However, eyes were on a university campus where hundreds of demonstrators have been holed up for three days, with fears of a violent crackdown by police.

On currency markets, the pound was holding gains on expectations Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ruling Conservative party will win the upcoming general election with a healthy majority that will help him push through his Brexit deal. - AFP

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