Asian shares mixed as wait goes on for elusive U.S.-China trade deal

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By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian share markets were mixed in subdued trade on Tuesday, pending clearer news on whether U.S.-China negotiations will reach a preliminary accord to end the prolonged trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

“There are some lingering doubts over whether a phase one deal can be struck,” Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank’s Asia Treasury Department in Singapore, said. “The suspicion is that there’s a lot more wrinkles to iron out than initially thought.”

Meantime, hopes that Beijing will deliver some economic stimulus provided a boost to sentiment.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan () rose 0.3%, with Shanghai blue chips () gaining 0.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng () up 1%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 () also rose, to close 0.7% higher. However Japan’s Nikkei () shed 0.4% and South Korea’s Kospi 200 dropped 0.5%, while volumes were light across the board.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 () were 0.1% higher and European futures also pointed to a higher open, with EUROSTOXX 50 futures () trading 0.3% higher.

Overnight, CNBC had reported the mood in Beijing was pessimistic about prospects of sealing an trade agreement with the United States.

Obversely, a new extension granted by Washington to let U.S. companies keep doing business with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei suggested a possible olive branch.

Still, neither morsel shed much light on progress in negotiations, and the listless trading suggested optimism over prospects for a deal was beginning to flag.

“The longer we go on, the more concerns will arise. The reality is the clock is ticking,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at brokerage CMC Markets in Sydney.

The next deadline in the dispute is Dec. 15, when another round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese good is scheduled to take effect.

Wall Street’s main indexes had traded mostly flat on Monday, looking for direction on trade, though they ended the day inching to record closing highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average () rose 0.1%. The S&P 500 () gained 0.05%, and the Nasdaq Composite . () added 0.1%.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes () drifted lower during Asian trading hours, but at 1.8084% it was above the U.S. close of 1.808% on Monday.

WAITING GAME

Currency markets were similarly range-bound. The safe-haven Japanese yen ticked higher to 108.60 yen per dollar.

The Australian dollar nudged 0.2% lower to $0.6797 after the central bank said it had seen a case for cutting rates this month.

The British pound settled at $1.2954 after hitting a one-month high overnight as four opinion polls showed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party on course for victory at the Dec. 12 election.

“Overall, risk-related plays will continue to be whipsawed by alternating headlines, but in the short term, risk-off plays may still have room to run as uncertainties persist,” said Terence Wu, a strategist at OCBC bank in Singapore.

, which has been closely tracking the fortunes of the Sino-U.S. trade dispute, was flat at $1,471.41 per ounce.

U.S. crude () dropped 0.42% to $56.81 a barrel. Brent crude () fell to $62.26 per barrel.

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