November 15, 2019 / 6:31 AM / a month ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks cheered by trade deal hopes but caution prevails

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan +0.57%; Nikkei +0.7%

* European futures point higher in early deals

* Kudlow says U.S., China getting close to trade deal

* Yen weakens, U.S. Treasury yields higher

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Asian stocks jumped on Friday, lifted by White House comments that suggested the possibility of an imminent trade deal between Washington and Beijing, which revived hopes that their tariff war may be nearing an end.

However, investor sentiment remains fragile after weak data from China reinforced concerns about the global economy and amid increasing caution about false signs of progress in Sino-U.S. trade talks.

The buoyant mood looked set to extend to Europe, where pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures rose 0.57% to 3,705, German DAX futures climbed 0.53% to 13,253.5, and FTSE futures inched up 0.36% to 7,322.

U.S. S&P 500 e-mini stock futures also rose, adding 0.35% to 3,107.8 after the S&P 500 index finished at a record closing high on Thursday.

Providing a fillip to investor confidence in early Asian trade, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Washington was getting close to a trade agreement with China.

That helped to lift MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan up 0.57%. Japan’s Nikkei added 0.7% and Australian shares gained 0.87%.

Chinese blue-chip shares, in contrast, struggled to hold gains after rising as much as 0.23% earlier in the day. The CSI300 index was last down 0.45%.

In Hong Kong, where anti-government protesters paralysed parts of the financial hub for a fifth day on Friday, the Hang Seng index gained 0.15%, but was on track for its worst weekly performance in nearly four months.

Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital in Sydney, likened regional markets’ bullish reaction to positive trade news to being in a relationship with an alcoholic, driven by entrenched hopes for recovery.

“Markets want to believe that there will be some sort of resolution to this issue, some sort of lasting truce at least, even though the experience of the last 18 months doesn’t give a lot of cause for comfort,” he said.

However, Oliver said weaker Chinese and U.S. economies, and the U.S. presidential election next year put pressure on both sides to come to an agreement.

The safe-haven yen weakened, with the dollar rising 0.17% to buy 108.57 yen. The euro was barely changed at $1.1023 and the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals was off just 0.02% at 98.143.

Higher U.S. Treasury yields also illustrated the risk-on tone in the Asian session, with the 10-year yield rising to 1.848% from a US close of 1.815% on Thursday.

The policy-sensitive two-year yield rose to 1.6101% from 1.593% on Thursday after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the risk of the U.S. economy facing a dramatic bust is remote.

A Reuters poll of more than 100 economists showed that while concerns have eased over a U.S. recession, few see an economic rebound, and most believe a trade truce is unlikely in the coming year.

Global sentiment has been buffeted in recent weeks by conflicting assessments of progress in talks between the United States and China aimed at ending their 16-month-long trade war.

On Thursday, China’s commerce ministry said that the two countries are holding “in-depth” discussions on a first phase trade agreement, and that cancelling tariffs is an important condition to reaching a deal.

China has also ended a nearly five-year ban on imports of U.S. poultry meat, which the U.S. Trade Representative said would lead to more than $1 billion in annual shipments to China.

Those developments followed comments from officials from both countries last week that they had a deal to roll back tariffs, only to have U.S. President Donald Trump deny that any such deal had been agreed to.

The new record for the S&P, which gained just 0.08% to 3,096.63, came despite a grim outlook from network gear maker Cisco Systems that underlined the impact of trade uncertainty.

The company forecast second-quarter revenue and profit below expectations as increasingly global economic uncertainties kept clients away from spending more on its routers and switches, sending its shares down 7.3%.

In contrast to the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.01% 27,781.96 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.04% to 8,479.02.

Capping broader confidence was German data that showed the economy grew just 0.1% in the third quarter, with consumer spending helping the country to avoid a mild contraction.

That followed numbers from China indicating a faster-than-expected slowdown in factory output growth in October due to weak domestic and global demand.

In commodity markets, U.S. crude prices rebounded after sliding Thursday on rising U.S. crude inventories. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was 0.44% higher at $57.02 a barrel.

Global benchmark Brent crude added 0.37% to $62.51 per barrel.

Gold retreated from gains that had been prompted by trade uncertainty. Spot gold was last trading at $1,463.90 per ounce, down 0.48%. ($1 = 6.9941 Chinese yuan)

Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Sam Holmes

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