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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks extend gains as US-China trade fears ebb

Samsung Electronics slips after announcing plant closure

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan advanced for a third day on Thursday as optimism that trade tensions between the U.S. and China may be easing boosted sentiment.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index added 0.9% to 1,224.75. Risk appetite improved amid bets that trade talks between Beijing and Washington were moving forward. China is preparing to replace its "Made in China 2025" industrial policy with a new program promising greater access for foreign companies, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people briefed on the matter. Other media have reported this week that China plans to reduce tariffs on imported U.S. cars.

Meanwhile, the Asian nation purchased 1.5 million to 2 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans in a day, Bloomberg reported, citing the U.S. Soybean Export Council. U.S. soybean shipments to China have slowed in recent months after Beijing imposed a tariff on U.S. soy imports in July.

Also, Meng Wanzhou, an executive at Chinese telecommunications-equipment maker Huawei Technologies who was recently arrested, has been released on bail.

As concerns around growth and trade tensions fade, Chinese stocks could find support next year, analysts at HSBC Global Asset Management said.

"We believe current valuations are undemanding after the sharp correction this year," said Mandy Chan, investment director and head of China and Hong Kong equities at HSBC Global Asset Management. "Beijing has stepped up its fiscal support as well as its liquidity support across the financial system."

Investors are also waiting for more cues on policy support in Asia's largest economy, with China's Central Economic Work Conference, an annual event on China's policy outlook, reportedly due to take place next week.

In Seoul on Thursday, heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell 1.1% after saying it will stop operations at a mobile phone manufacturing plant in the Chinese city of Tianjin amid "efforts to enhance efficiency at production facilities."

Tencent Holdings, which has a market value of more than HK$ 3 trillion ($383.6 billion), added 0.6% in Hong Kong after saying it plans to pay a special dividend of about HK$ 250 million following the spinoff and U.S. listing of Tencent Music Entertainment Group. China Resources Land jumped 5.7% following a 45.2% surge in November contracted sales.

Personal-hygiene products maker Hengan International Group slid 3.7% as trading resumed after it denied allegations about its financials in a report earlier this week by short-seller Bonitas Research. The company also said it will consider legal action against Bonitas. In a fresh report, Bonitas said Hengan's response was "weak and evasive of our key points" in its earlier report.

Mainland developers China Vanke and China Overseas Land & Investment climbed 5.4% and 3%, respectively. China's National Development and Reform Commission said it encourages "quality" companies to raise funds from the bond market to strengthen their working capital. Equity research firm CMS International on Thursday said the development is a good sign for large-cap developers including Vanke. NDRC defines a qualified quality company as one which has a AAA credit rating and a leading position within its industry or region, among other factors.

Semiconductor company MediaTek added 1.9% in Taipei after saying it is collaborating with Google to bring augmented reality and lens visual search experiences to mid-range smartphones.

--Amy Lam

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