* Upbeat U.S. private job, service sector data lift mood
* WHO says no break-through reported on coronavirus drugs
* China will cut some U.S. import tariffs by half
* Mainland China shares up 1%
* Asian stock markets: tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Asian stocks edged up on Thursday, cheered by record closes in Wall Street benchmarks after encouraging economic data, and after China announced a cut in tariffs on some imported goods from the United States.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 1.3% while Japan’s Nikkei rose 2.47%. Mainland Chinese shares also reacted positively, with the bluechip CSI300 index up 0.97%.
U.S. stock futures rose 0.5% while China’s onshore yuan rose 0.2% to its strongest level since Jan. 23 after the tariff cuts were announced.
China said on Thursday it will halve tariffs on some U.S. goods, which could help improve negotiating conditions for a second phase of trade deal after the two countries agreed on a interim deal last month.
“Under the phase 1 deal, China has to meet a tough target to increase U.S. import by $100 billion this year, so a measure like this was necessary and expected,” said Tomo-o Kinoshita, global market strategist at Invesco Asset Management.
“But at the same time, that they did this now points to their desire to support Chinese companies as the coronavirus epidemic will obviously deal a huge blow to China’s growth,” he added.
Mainland shares have also drawn support from Beijing’s efforts to support the market amid heightened anxieties about the coronavirus, including liquidity injections and de facto restrictions on selling.
“It is difficult for investors to sell Chinese shares now given the authorities’ stance is very clear,” said Naoki Tashiro, president of TS China Research.
“Still, until the spread of the virus stops, market stabilisation steps won’t completely change investor psychology.”
On Wall Street, far from the epicentre of the outbreak, the mood was brighter as the S&P 500 gained 1.13% to a record close of 3,334.69 while the Nasdaq Composite added 0.43% to 9,508.68, also a record high.
The ADP National Employment Report showed private payrolls jumped 291,000 jobs in January, the most since May 2015, while a separate report showed U.S. services sector activity picked up last month. Both indicators suggest the economy could continue to grow this year even as consumer spending slows.
Traders also cited vague rumours of a possible vaccine or a drug breakthrough for the coronavirus as a trigger for Wednesday’s stock rally, although they also said such catalysts were likely to simply be an excuse for short-covering.
The World Health Organization played down media reports on Wednesday of “breakthrough” drugs being discovered to treat people infected with the new coronavirus.
Another 73 people on the Chinese mainland died on Wednesday from the virus, the highest daily increase so far, bringing the total death toll to 563, the country’s health authority said on Thursday.
“Despite all the efforts by the Communist Party, the virus is becoming a major global disaster. Considering workers usually start to return to hometown about a week before the Lunar New Year, many patients must have left Wuhan before its lockdown on Jan. 23,” TS China Research’s Tashiro said.
Statistics from China indicate that about 2% of people infected with the new virus have died, suggesting it may be deadlier than seasonal flu but less deadly than SARS, another reason investors remained relatively calm.
“The coronavirus is continuing to spread so we need to remain cautious. But markets now appear to think that there will be a quick economic recovery after a short-term slump,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.
The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield rose back to 1.672% from a five-month low of 1.503% set last Friday.
In the currency market, the yuan gained 0.2% to 6.9600 per dollar in onshore trade while the Australian dollar rose 0.2% to $0.6758.
The safe-haven yen stepped back to 109.94 yen, compared with a three-week high of 108.305 hit on Friday.
The euro stood flat at $1.0998.
In commodities, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 2.17% to $51.85 per barrel, extending its rebound from a 13-month low of $49.31 touched on Tuesday.
Still it is down about 15% so far this year.
Copper, considered a good gauge on the health of the global economy because of its wide industrial use, showed some signs of stabilisation although it remained depressed overall.
Shanghai copper extended its rebound into the third day, rising 1% from 33-month low hit earlier this week. It is about 5% below its levels just before the start of Lunar New Year holidays.
“One has to wonder whether China can meet its trade agreement with the U.S. to increase imports by $200 billion (in two years), which looked very difficult to begin with,” said a manager at a U.S. asset management firm, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak about China.
“Before the outbreak, a mini goldilocks market was everyone’s consensus. But we have to see whether we need to change such a view,” he added. (Editing by Sam Holmes)