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Asia report: Markets end week higher on fresh trade hopes

Fri 18 January 2019 09:40 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - Markets in Asia finished mostly higher on Friday, as traders welcomed reports that Washington could be considering an easing of punitive tariffs on China as a way to progress trade discussions with Beijing.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 1.25% at 27,090.81, as the yen weakened 0.27% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 109.55.

The broader Topix index added 0.93% to close at 1,557.59 in Tokyo.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite advanced 1.42% to 2,596.01, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite improved 0.99% to 1,322.14.

South Korea's Kospi was ahead 0.82% at 2,124.28, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong rose 1.25% to 27,090.81.

Sentiment was given a boost by a report from the Wall Street Journal overnight, which claimed that US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin was considering lifting at least some of the punitive tariffs the US had levelled against Chinese imports.

It was seen as a way to show Beijing that Washington was keen to see more concessions from both sides in ongoing trade discussions between the US and China.

However, the Journal also said the idea had been rebuffed by US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, who was seeing it as a sign of weakness.

"[The report] helped to mitigate the dashed hopes for an announcement of a peace trade deal at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos from 22-25 January," noted National Australia Bank head of strategy and research Christy Tan.

Donald Trump had cancelled his Davos delegation on Thursday as a result of his ongoing federal government shutdown.

Oil prices were higher as the region went to bed, with Brent crude last up 0.99% at $61.79 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate adding 0.97% to $52.58.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.5% higher at 5,879.60, while across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 rose 0.2% to 9,077.71.

Both of the down under dollars were weaker on the greenback, with the Aussie last off 0.1% at AUD 1.3917, and the Kiwi retreating 0.05% to NZD 1.4792.

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