Asia Markets: Asian markets gain as trade tensions ease further

Asian markets rose in early trading Friday following signs of hope for a thaw in the trade war between the U.S. and China.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that China was seeking to narrow the scope of upcoming trade negotiations, hoping to resolve some key issues and break the months-long deadlock. Later, President Donald Trump said he would be open to a smaller-scale, interim trade deal. That came a day after Trump put off tariff hikes on $250 billion in Chinese goods for two weeks and China exempted more than a dozen U.S. products from new tariff hikes of its own.

Also Wednesday, the European Central Bank cut interest rates deeper into negative territory, as expected, raising hopes that the Federal Reserve may soon enact its own easy-money policies.

Japan’s Nikkei

NIK, +1.05%

  gained 0.9% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index

HSI, +0.72%

  advanced 0.2%. Malaysia’s benchmark index

FBMKLCI, -0.19%

  was about flat while stocks rose slightly in Singapore

STI, +0.49%

  and Indonesia

JAKIDX, +0.11%

 . Australia’s S&P/ASX

XJO, +0.21%

  was about flat. Markets in mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea were closed for holidays.

Among individual stocks, Yahoo Japan

4689, +4.92%

 , SoftBank

9984, +3.20%

  and Fast Retailing

9983, +0.62%

  rallied in Tokyo trading. In Hong Kong, Sunny Optical

2382, +2.23%

  and Volvo parent Geely Automobile

175, +4.60%

  gained, while oil producer CNOOC

883, +0.17%

  slipped. Beach Energy

BPT, +0.00%

  and Commonwealth Bank

CBA, +0.97%

  rose in Australia.

“What’s driving markets today is the potential for an interim trade deal,” said Tony Roth, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust on Thursday. “There’s enough pain to (China’s) domestic economy and there’s enough pain to our domestic economy that it’s in both presidents’ interests to take a step back and have a little bit of breathing room right now. That’s what’s changed.”

The S&P 500 index

SPX, +0.29%

  rose 8.64 points, or 0.3%, to 3,009.57. The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.17%

  extended its winning streak to a seventh straight day, gaining 45.41 points, or 0.2%, to 27,182.45. The Nasdaq

COMP, +0.30%

  added 24.79 points, or 0.3%, to 8,194.47. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gave up an early gain, sliding 0.65 point to 1,575.07.

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