BEIJING — Asian stock markets rose Monday after Wall Street hit a new high and a meeting between President Donald Trump and Japan’s prime minister appeared to soothe tensions over trade and currency.
KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.5 per cent to 3,212.94 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.4 per cent to 19,459.15. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.5 per cent to 23,701.32 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 rose 0.7 per cent to 5,760.70. Seoul’s Kospi was up 0.2 per cent at 2,078.65, while India’s Sensex lost 0.3 per cent to 28,239.36. Benchmarks in New Zealand and Southeast Asia rose.
WALL STREET: A rally in small company stocks Friday helped push benchmarks to all-time highs. Miners and other raw materials companies led gains while rising oil prices gave energy companies a big boost. Strong company earnings and investor optimism over the Trump administration’s promises of tax cuts, less government regulation and other policies helped fuel the market’s gains much of the week. News that OPEC is largely adhering to a recent pact to cut crude oil production has also helped lift markets. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 per cent to 20,269.37. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 0.4 per cent to 2,316.10. The Nasdaq composite index added 0.3 per cent to 5,734.13. The Nasdaq closed at a record high four times last week.
TRUMP WATCH: President Donald Trump helped to reassure investors by affirming Washington’s “one China” policy and appearing to back away from promises to declare Beijing and Tokyo manipulate their currencies. Trump said he had a “very warm” phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. Trump said Washington would honour its “one China” policy, which had been in question since he spoke to the leader of Taiwan after his election. Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in what appeared to be a cordial set of gatherings including golf at the president’s Mar-A-Lago estate. The two leaders announced discussion of a possible bilateral trade deal, and there was no public sparring over past accusations of currency manipulation or other issues.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “This positive lead from the U.S. coupled with improving trade sentiment provides the backing for a positive Monday for Asian markets,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a report. The Trump-Abe meeting and Trump’s “One China” commitment “could allay some of the trade concerns in Asia and set free into the market more bullish bets,” said Pan. “While it remains to be hashed out, President Donald Trump’s mention of a ‘level playing field’ on currency valuation also appears to reflect an amicable turn after the U.S. president accused his visitors of currency manipulation.”
CHINESE TRADE: Chinese exports did better than expected in January, prompting suggestions the downturn in global demand might finally have bottomed out. Exports rebounded from the previous month’s contraction and rising 7.9 per cent over a year earlier. Import growth accelerated from the previous month, rising 16.7 per cent over a year earlier in a sign of relatively strong Chinese domestic demand. That was a positive sign for communist leaders who are trying to prevent politically dangerous job losses in export industries that employ millions of workers.
FED WATCH: Investors are awaiting a speech Thursday by Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen for possible signs of how policy might change during the Trump administration. Vice Chair Stanley Fischer said over the weekend there was “significant uncertainty” about government spending. Another board member, Daniel Tarullo, announced plans to retire, raising to three the number of empty seats Trump can fill.
CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 113.69 yen from Friday’s 113.21 yen. The euro declined to $1.0632 from $1.0642.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 9 cents to $53.77 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 86 cents on Friday to $53.86. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 6 cents to $56.64 in London after jumping $1.07 the previous session to $56.70.