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Nikkei Markets

Asian equities rise after Xi speech eases trade war fears

Hong Kong's benchmark stock index climbs 1.1% to lead gains in region

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong stocks paced gains for Asian equities on Tuesday, after Chinese President Xi Jinping hinted at opening up the economy further and promoting free trade during a speech on Hainan island.

In comments made at the Boao Forum for Asia's annual conference on Tuesday, Xi indicated China's plans to lower tariffs on auto imports. The remarks came hours after U.S. President Donald Trump highlighted on Twitter that the U.S. levies a 2.5% tariff on imported Chinese cars, while Beijing imposes a 25% duty on cars coming into China. Xi also signaled an intent to loosen the limits for foreign ownership in other industries and outlined plans to open up market access to foreign investors.

The speech follows weeks of back-and-forth negotiations between U.S. and Chinese officials, after the two nations' retaliatory trade measures fueled worries of a full-blown trade war.

"Trade is not something that can be solved in a short period of time," said Conita Hung, investment strategy director at Gransing Securities. "But I think Xi Jinping's speech this morning could ease some pressure. Xi was rather mild and did not respond directly to the trade argument, he but stressed on the opening-up process and reiterated the government's stance and policy on foreign capital's involvement in the mainland."

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up 1.1% to 30,574.45 by the noon lunchbreak, while the Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.5% to 3,154.26. Chinese automakers Geely Automobile Holdings and Great Wall Motor added 3.4% and 0.9%, respectively, by the noon break.

The safe haven Japanese yen fell 0.3% against the U.S. dollar in an indication that risk appetite was improving. Equity benchmarks in the rest of Asia also rose, with Taiwan's index advancing 0.5%, Singapore's Straits Times Index rising 0.2% and South Korea's Kospi edging 0.2% higher after dropping as much as 1% earlier in the day. The Nikkei Asia300 Index of more than 300 influential regional companies rose 0.7% to 1,431.82.

Index heavyweights steered gains for Hong Kong's main gauge, with internet major Tencent Holdings climbing 1.4%. The stock is heading for its third consecutive day higher, poised for its longest winning streak since mid-March. Ping An Insurance Group added 2.8%.

Mainland property developer Country Garden Holdings rose 4.7% following a 24.8% increase in January-March contracted sales to about 187.97 billion yuan ($29.79 billion).

Anhui Conch Cement advanced 1.7% in Hong Kong after the company late Monday said it expects first-quarter net profit to increase about 120% year-over-year.

Heavyweight Samsung Electronics pared losses in Seoul, trading 0.6% lower by noon after sliding as much as 2.4% earlier. Lenders paced gains for Singapore, with DBS Group Holdings and United Overseas Bank adding 0.6% and 0.7%, respectively.

-- Benny Kung

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