HONG KONG: Asian equities rose Wednesday as investors breathed a collective sigh of relief at news the US had delayed tariffs on a swathe of Chinese goods, easing tensions in their bitter trade war.
Donald Trump also said top-level negotiators for both sides had held “very productive" talks by phone, while an official told AFP the president's top trade representative would speak again to his opposite number in two weeks.
Trump said the decision was made to protect consumers heading into the holiday shopping season, with 10 percent levies on electronics goods — which were due on September 1 — put off until December 15.
“By the time December comes around the US will be less than one year away from the next presidential election, and Trump won't want to be remembered as the Grinch," said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK.
The news provided some much-needed respite for investors, who have come under intense pressure from a range of issues including concerns about the global economy, Hong Kong's protests, the trade war and Brexit.
Wall Street's three main indexes surged on the announcement, with the tech-rich Nasdaq up two percent, and the Dow and S&P 500 more than one percent higher.
– ‘Scepticism' –
However, National Australia Bank's Tapas Strickland offered a note of caution.
“Markets have rallied hard on the notion of Trump blinking, but overall a high degree of scepticism should remain and an imminent deal is unlikely given Trump has foreshadowed he is going to be campaigning hard on the issue in the 2020 election," he said in a note.
The US gains filtered through to Asia where Hong Kong added 0.1 percent.
The rise helped reverse some of the more than two percent lost in the previous two days from concerns about rising political tension that saw the city's airport — a major international hub — shut down for two days.
The increasingly violent demonstrations have also been referred to as “terrorism" by Beijing, stoking fears China will take a tougher line, with observers still concerned about the outlook for further unrest.
Shanghai added 0.4 percent but early big gains there and in Hong Kong were pared after data showed Chinese factory output expanded last month at its slowest pace in 17 years as the economy struggles with the impact of the trade war and a weakening global demand.
Tokyo ended one percent higher and Seoul added 0.7 percent, Sydney put on 0.4 percent and Taipei put on 0.6 percent. There were also gains in Mumbai, Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok though Wellington and Singapore dipped.
– Yuan bounce –
High-yielding, riskier currencies also enjoyed some gains with the Mexican peso and South African rand, South Korea's won and the Indonesian rupiah all posting strong gains.
In morning trade London was flat, while Paris and Frankfurt edged down 0.2 percent.
China's yuan, which has plunged in the past two weeks on worries about the trade stand-off — sparking accusations Beijing is a currency manipulator — also bounced.
The euro held its ground despite data showing the economy in Germany, the eurozone's biggest economy, shrank in the second quarter.
However, gold — a key solace in times of turmoil and uncertainty — only fell slightly, which OANDA Asia-Pacific senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley said was telling.
“Given the stampede out of defensive positioning we saw everywhere else, this performance is doubly impressive and suggests that calmer heads will need a lot more evidence that a collision between the two supertankers of the world economy will be avoided," he wrote.
Data showing US inflation rising more than expected also tempered hopes for another interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve this year.
On oil markets, Brent retreated more than one percent after surging 4.7 percent Tuesday on the tariffs news, while WTI was down 0.7 percent following a four percent rise.
– Key figures around 0810 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.0 percent at 20,655.13 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: Up 0.1 percent at 25,302.28 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 2,808.91 (close)
London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,252.43
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1179 from $1.1172 at 2115 GMT
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2057 from $1.2060
Euro/pound: UP at 92.72 pence from 92.60 pence
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.36 from 106.74 yen
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 66 cents at $56.44 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 51 cents at $60.79 per barrel
New York – Dow: UP 1.4 percent at 26,279.91 (close)