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Asian shares gain as investors await news on China-US trade

A visitor sits in front of private stock trading boards at a private stock market gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, March 15, 2019. Shares were higher Friday in Asia after a day of lackluster trading on Wall Street. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

BANGKOK — Shares rose Friday in Asia after a day of lacklustre trading on Wall Street.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index jumped 1 per cent to 21,506.92 as the Bank of Japan ended a policy meeting by keeping its key interest rate at minus 0.1 per cent, maintaining its stance of extreme monetary easing and lavish stimulus.

Chinese shares surged as the annual session of its ceremonial congress ended with Premier Li Keqiang pledging support for the slowing economy.

Li said the country would cut fees and taxes, delivering help worth almost 2 trillion yen (about $300 billion) to companies, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

“We are going to cut value-added tax rates for manufacturing and other basic sectors, as well as for small and medium-sized companies, the largest providers of jobs in our country, in a meaningful way,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.

The Shanghai Composite index jumped 1.5 per cent to 3,035.10 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.8 per cent to 29,083.03.

Investors spent Thursday in a wait-and-see mode, keeping a close watch on global trade issues and continuing to mostly brush off the chaos surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union, its key trading bloc.

U.S. stocks indexes barely budged Thursday as the market’s three-day winning streak stalled.

The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index 0.1 per cent to 2,808.48. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat at 25,709.94. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.2 per cent to 7,630.91, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 0.4 per cent, to 1,549.63.

Facebook fell 1.8 per cent after the New York Times reported that its data-sharing practices are now under criminal investigation.

The investigation into how it sells data is the latest in a list of privacy scandals the social media company faces. Its privacy practices have already been scrutinized by The Federal Trade Commission. The company and its CEO have also faced Congressional inquiries.

Boeing fell 1 per cent. The stock has slumped throughout the week as nations and airlines grounded its newest 737s over safety concerns. A second deadly crash over the weekend involving its 737 Max 8 and safety concerns stunted the company’s stock gains.

The Commerce Department said sales of new U.S. homes slumped 6.9 per cent in January, a possible sign that would-be buyers paused during the government shutdown even as mortgage rates continued to decline. The report also showed sales prices declined 3.8 per cent. Homebuilder stocks were mostly trading lower following the report.

Investors are still waiting for some more news on U.S.-China trade negotiations.

A report by Bloomberg said a possible summit meeting of President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had been pushed back to April and that it would be clear if a deal could be reached on their dispute over Beijing’s industrial strategies and other issues within several weeks.

ELSEWHERE IN ASIA: South Korea’s Kospi advanced 0.6 per cent to 2,169.33 and the S&P ASX 200 of Australia rose 0.2 per cent to 6,189.00. India’s Sensex surged 0.6 per cent to 37,975.26. Shares rose in Taiwan and most of Southeast Asia but fell in Thailand.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged higher to 111.71 Japanese yen from 111.70 yen on Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1316 from $1.1304.

ENERGY: The price of U.S. crude oil added 2 cents to $58.63 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 0.6 per cent Thursday to settle at $58.61 a barrel. Brent crude, used as an international standard, also gained 2 cents, to $67.25 per barrel.


AP Business writers Damien J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed.

Elaine Kurtenbach, The Associated Press