March 8, 2018 / 12:42 AM / 2 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares find solace in hopes of smaller Trump tariff

* Hopes of milder U.S. tariffs support market sentiment

* Nikkei up 1 pct, Korea’s Kospi up 0.8 pct

* Dollar steadies; Mexico peso, C$ recover

* ECB may offer hint on how it will end bond buying programme

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO, March 8 (Reuters) - Asian shares found relief on Thursday as fears about a global trade war amid U.S. President Donald Trump’s push to introduce protectionist tariffs were tempered by signs the move could include carve-outs for key partners.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 percent, led by gains in South Korean shares, which also benefited from signs of easing tensions between the two Koreas. Japan’s Nikkei gained one percent.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended down just 0.05 percent at 2,726.8 after an initial loss of almost one percent, with tech shares being a major bright spot.

They erased most losses as White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a media briefing that the impending hefty U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium imports could exclude Canada, Mexico and a clutch of other countries.

That soothed worries that the Trump Administration could lean more towards protectionist policies after the departure of his top economic adviser Gary Cohn.

“Concerns about the U.S. tariff should ease today following the comments from the White House,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management. “Still the issue will continue to hang over in the markets. Investors need to see exactly what steps Trump will take and what retaliatory actions other countries will take in coming days.”

Trump is expected to sign a presidential proclamation establishing the tariffs during a ceremony scheduled for 2030 GMT on Thursday, a source familiar with the situation said.

In the currency market, the Mexican peso and Canadian dollar recovered from their steep losses.

The peso last stood at 18.7125 per dollar while the Canadian dollar changed hands at C$1.2910 to the U.S. unit, off its eight-month low of C$1.3002 hit earlier this week.

The dollar also stabilised against other major currencies after its recent hit from fears about the tariff plan.

The euro traded at $1.2411, having risen to $1.2447 on Wednesday, its highest levels since Feb. 16. The common currency has been rising since it had hit a seven-week low of $1.21545 hit on Thursday, when Trump unveiled his tariff plan.

The European Central Bank is all but certain to keep policy unchanged on Thursday but may tweak its communication stance to offer at least a few clues about its progress towards ending its unprecedented bond purchases later this year.

The dollar changed hands at 106.05 yen, keeping some distance from its 16-month low of 105.24 touched on Friday.

Bitcoin fell after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said many online trading platforms for cryptocurrencies should be registered with the regulator and subject to additional rules.

On the Bitstamp exchange, it traded at $9,904, having lost 7.6 percent on Wednesday, its biggest daily fall in over a month.

In commodities, oil prices were under pressure, hit by worries about U.S. protectionism as well as U.S. government data showing an increase in crude inventories and output.

Weekly data from the U.S. Department of Energy showed weekly U.S. crude production hit a record high last week of almost 10.4 million barrels per day.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for April delivery fell 2.3 percent on Wednesday, its biggest daily percentage loss since Feb. 9. They last fetched $61.29 per barrel, up 0.2 percent so far in Asia on Thursday.

Editing by Sam Holmes; Editing by Sam Holmes

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