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Asia Markets

March 29, 2019, 8:23 a.m. EDT

Shanghai Composite leads Asia stocks higher after U.S., China resume trade talks

China stocks see best quarter gain since end 2014

By Associated Press and Marketwatch

China's Vice Premier Liu He talks with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday in Beijing.

Asian markets rose Friday, as investors took a positive read on trade talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in Beijing.

The Shanghai Composite index (SHG:CN:SHCOMP)   closed up nearly 3.2%, climbing 23.9% for the first quarter, its best quarterly percentage gain since the fourth quarter of 2014, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HONG:HK:HSI)  finished up 0.9% and South Korea’s Kospi (KOREA:KR:180721)   gained 0.6%.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 (NIKKEI:JP:NIK)   rose 0.8% and finished the quarter with a gain of 5.9%, its best quarterly gain since the third quarter of 2018. 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 (S&P:AU:XJO)  finished flat, while shares in Taiwan  gained 0.9% and Singapore (SES:SG:STI) rose 0.5%.

Among individual stocks, SoftBank (TKS:JP:9984)   and Rakuten (TKS:JP:4755)  gained in Tokyo trading, and China Life Insurance (HKG:HK:2628)   and CNOOC (HKG:HK:883) advanced in Hong Kong. Samsung (KRX:KR:005930)   slipped in Korea, while BHP (ASX:AU:BHP)   and Rio Tinto (ASX:AU:RIO)   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. Later in the day, Mnuchin tweeted out that he had “concluded constructive trade talks.”

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 (S&P:SPX)   was 0.4% higher at 2,815.44. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW:DJIA)   also gained 0.4% to 25,717.46. The Nasdaq composite (AMERICAN:COMP)   rose 0.3% to 7,669.17. Stock futures pointed to more gains on Wall Street Friday.

Benchmark U.S. crude   jumped $1.15 to $60.46 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  , used to price international oils, rose 90 cents to $67.99 per barrel. The contract shed 14 cents to $67.10 per barrel in London.

The dollar (XTUP:USDJPY)   strengthened to 110.74 yen from 110.63 yen.

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