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Nikkei Markets

Asia stocks gain as new round of US-China trade talks said to begin next week

Philippine companies among top performers on A300 Index

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Nikkei's Asia 300 index, which follows the region's biggest companies across eleven economies, ended higher on Wednesday amid reports that the U.S. and China will begin another round of trade talks next week.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index of companies outside Japan advanced 0.2% to 1,292.31. Trading volumes in the region continued to be muted with markets in Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam remaining closed on Wednesday on account of the Lunar New Year.

Senior officials of the U.S. and China are poised to begin another round of trade talks in Beijing next week, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing two people familiar with the plan. It followed an earlier report by Dow Jones, citing an unidentified senior administration official, that trade talks next week would be led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Last week, the two countries had concluded high-level negotiations. Beijing and Washington are attempting to reach a trade agreement before a March 1 deadline, failing which U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports will increase. Late last year, leaders of the two nations had agreed to a temporary 90-day trade truce, which ends on March 1.

President Donald Trump, in his State of the Union address in early Wednesday Asia hours, said that a new trade deal with China must include an end to unfair trade practices, reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China, and protect American jobs, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, U.S. equities continued their recent good run on Tuesday. The S&P 500 Index added 0.5% to reach two-month highs. The index has added 16.5% since Dec. 24 amid indications by the Federal Reserve that it was in no hurry to raise interest rates.

Philippine companies were among the top performers on the A300 Index on Wednesday after data released a day earlier showed that inflation eased to a 10-month low in January, suggesting that interest rates were unlikely to rise in coming months in the Southeast Asian nation. The consumer price index rose 4.4% last month, a 10th slower than economists polled by Reuters had expected. Philippines markets were closed on Tuesday.

BDO Unibank and Ayala Land, gained by at least 0.3% each.

In Mumbai, Tech Mahindra jumped 8.1% after the software company reported a 28% jump in December quarter net profit, beating consensus estimates.

Indian Oil closed 3% higher amid a broad rally in fuel retailers after Hindustan Petroleum posted an unexpected profit in the third quarter.

In economic data released on Wednesday, Indonesia said its economy grew by 5.18% in the fourth quarter, higher than the 5.11% reading expected by economists polled by Reuters.

In Thailand, the Bank of Thailand on Wednesday maintained the one-day repo rate at 1.75%, in line with expectations. The country's lenders ended mostly higher, with Siam Commercial Bank adding 1.9% and Kasikornbank advancing 1%.

--Nimesh Vora

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