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Dec. 10, 2019, 11:32 p.m. EST

Most Asian markets gain amid hopes for China tariff delay; Japan sits out rally

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By Rachel Koning Beals


Getty Images
Pedestrians walk past an electronic billboard displaying the Hang Seng Index.

Most Asian stock markets traded higher Wednesday, with investor moods cautiously lifted by a report that U.S. President Donald Trump might delay a weekend tariff hike on $160 billion in Chinese goods.

Benchmarks in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia rose, although the market in Tokyo declined. Wall Street stocks, including the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.39% fell for a second straight day Tuesday.

In recent trading, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.60%   was up 0.3%. The Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.05%  rose 0.1%, while the Shenzhen Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598015/delayed CN:399106 -0.29%   also gained slightly. Japan’s Nikkei /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.45%   slipped 0.2%.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.11%   advanced 0.4%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan /zigman2/quotes/210597977/delayed TW:Y9999 +0.19%  and Singapore /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI +0.09% were slightly positive. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.32%   rose 0.5%.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people close to the talks, reported that U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are “laying the groundwork for a delay” of the new tariffs.

But the rhetoric out of Washington remains confusing for markets. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told attendees at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council summit in Washington on Tuesday night that additional tariffs of 15% on consumer goods from China are “still on the table” and could set in on Dec. 15, even as progress toward an interim accord is being made. Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow also said fresh tariffs are “still on the table.”

“Markets hope that the tariff can is kicked down the road while talks are underway,” said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a report. However, he warned, such hopes are “tentative if not fragile” with no commitment from Trump.

Outside of the trade-pact speculation, attention remains fixed on central bank decisions.

The Federal Reserve will wrap up a two-day meeting Wednesday, at which it is expected to hold steady on benchmark interest rates following a stellar November jobs report. Still, investors will be eager to glean details on the outlook for monetary policy. The WSJ reported that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s main assignment will be to forge consensus toward a “broader revamp of the Fed’s rate-setting strategy” as he encourages the central bank to let inflation run above its annual 2% target.

A meeting of the European Central Bank on Thursday also is expected to produce no surprises.

Meanwhile, global investors are looking to Thursday’s U.K. election for 650 seats in the House of Commons to break an impasse over departure from the EU and London’s future relationship with the trade bloc. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed for a vote more than two years early in hopes of winning a majority. He has promised to take Britain out of the EU by Jan. 31 if his Conservatives win.

Benchmark crude oil   lost 33 cents to $58.91 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.0191%   eased to 108.73 Japanese yen from 108.74 yen Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed .

/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
3,329.62
+12.81 +0.39%
Volume: 2.15B
Jan. 17, 2020 5:07p
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/zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed
HK : Hong Kong Exchange
29,056.42
+173.38 +0.60%
Volume: 1.55M
Jan. 17, 2020 4:08p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed
CN : China: Shanghai
3,075.50
+1.41 +0.05%
Volume: 19.03B
Jan. 17, 2020 3:01p
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/zigman2/quotes/210598015/delayed
CN : Shenhzen Stock Exchange
1,806.28
-5.29 -0.29%
Volume: 30.48B
Jan. 17, 2020 3:00p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed
JP : Nikkei
24,041.26
+108.13 +0.45%
Volume: 0.00
Jan. 17, 2020 3:15p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed
KR : Korea Exchange
2,250.57
+2.52 +0.11%
Volume: 580,816
Jan. 17, 2020 3:30p
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/zigman2/quotes/210597977/delayed
TW : Taiwan Stock Exchange
12,090.29
+23.36 +0.19%
Volume: 0.00
Jan. 17, 2020 1:33p
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/zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed
SG : Singapore: SGX
3,281.03
+3.03 +0.09%
Volume: 0.00
Jan. 17, 2020 5:20p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed
AU : S&P ASX
7,064.10
+22.30 +0.32%
Volume: 500,321
Jan. 17, 2020 5:18p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled
US : Tullett Prebon
110.1450
-0.0210 -0.0191%
Volume: 0.0000
Jan. 17, 2020 4:59p
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Rachel Koning Beals is a MarketWatch news editor in Chicago.

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