Asia Markets: Asian markets mixed amid conflicting reports of tariff rollbacks

Asian markets were mixed in early trading Friday as investors sought clarity after conflicting messages about the state of U.S.-China trade talks.

Chinese officials announced Thursday that a mutual rollback of tariffs had been agreed upon as part of a “phase one” trade deal, but while one U.S. official confirmed that, two others disputed it, according to the Wall Street Journal. Reuters reported that the subject of rolling back tariffs faced “fierce internal opposition” within the White House.

China got encouraging economic news as exports fell less than expected in October, down just 0.9% from the prior year compared to September’s 3.2% decline. Experts had expected a 3.1% fall. Chinese imports also fell less than expected.

Japan’s Nikkei

NIK, +0.11%

  inched up 0.1% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index

HSI, -0.63%

  retreated 0.4%. The Shanghai Composite

SHCOMP, +0.07%

  rose 0.3% and the Shenzhen Composite

399106, +0.47%

  gained 0.8%. South Korea’s Kospi

180721, -0.34%

  declined 0.2%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan

Y9999, -0.08%

 , Singapore

STI, -0.92%

 , Malaysia

FBMKLCI, -0.10%

  and Indonesia

JAKIDX, -0.06%

  were mixed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200

XJO, -0.04%

  dipped 0.2%.

Among individual stocks, SoftBank

9984, +2.63%

  gained in Tokyo trading, as did Toyota

7203, +1.72%

  , while retailers Fast Retailing

9983, -1.29%

  and Rakuten

4755, -4.41%

  fell. In Hong Kong, Geely Automobile

175, +2.23%

  rose while New World Development

17, -1.71%

  and Tencent

700, -1.44%

  declined. SK Hynix

000660, -1.67%

  fell in South Korea while Apple component maker Largan Precision

3008, +1.93%

 advanced in Taiwan. Beach Energy

BPT, +1.69%

  and Woodside Petroleum

WPL, +2.03%

  gained in Australia.

If the deal pans out, “it will be an emphatic upside surprise for the global economy,” said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a report.

However, “we cannot rule out a gap” between the U.S. and Chinese positions, Varathan warned. And he said the Federal Reserve might turn “less dovish” if the deal “takes off with more promise than anticipated” and tariffs fall, easing pressure on U.S. economic growth.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index

SPX, +0.27%

  gained 0.3% to a record 3,085.18. It was up 0.7% at one point. The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.66%

  climbed 0.7% to a record 27,674.80. The Nasdaq composite

COMP, +0.28%

  finished just shy of its all-time high after rising 0.3% to 8,434.52.

Encouraging reports on the U.S. economy and corporate profits have helped drive stocks back to record heights. The job market is strong, and the Fed has cut interest rates three times.

That leaves the U.S.-Chinese trade war as the wild card for the global economy.

Benchmark U.S. crude

CLZ19, -0.49%

  fell 20 cents to $56.95 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 80 cents on Thursday to close at $57.15. Brent crude

BRNF20, -0.32%

 , used to price international oils, declined 10 cents to $62.19 per barrel in London. It advanced 55 cents the previous session to $62.29.

The dollar

USDJPY, -0.03%

  declined to 109.24 yen from Thursday’s 109.28 yen.

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