Most Asian markets climb at start of crunch week

Hong Kong (AFP) –


Asian markets mostly rose Monday as investors look ahead to a week chock-full of crucial events including the high-level trade talks between China and the United States.

Hopes that a deal can be struck between the world's top two economies has helped fuel a rally this month in global equities, which had been hammered in December.

While there have been conflicting reports on the likelihood of an agreement to solve the trade war, analysts say it is in the interests of both sides to reach a deal, with China's economy stuttering and President Donald Trump gearing up his re-election campaign.

"Although coming to an agreement is still tricky, both sides have little incentive to escalate tensions." said Tai Hui, chief market strategist for Asia-Pacific at JP Morgan Asset Management.

"Markets will at least expect an extension of the truce in tariff increases beyond early March, while more difficult issues are still being worked on by both sides."

As well as the Wednesday-Thursday meeting in Washington, dealers also have in their sights the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting, where the central bank's statement will be pored over for an idea about its interest rate plans.

Also coming up is the release of US jobs and economic growth data, Chinese manufacturing activity results, another vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal and a number of big-name earnings, including from Apple, Samsung, Facebook and Alibaba.

- Fragile shutdown truce -

In early trade, Shanghai was up more than one percent while Hong Kong added 0.7 percent and Singapore put on 0.3 percent. Seoul added 0.2 percent, Manila was up one percent and Taipei 0.5 percent.

However, Tokyo dipped 0.3 percent by the break.

Wall Street provided a positive lead after another batch of upbeat earnings reports, though observers said there was little major reaction to news that Trump had agreed to re-open the government after public services started to buckle in the longest-ever shutdown.

However, the deal that will see 800,000 workers finally get paid will only last a week and did nothing to resolve the row over the president's demand for billions of dollars to pay for a Mexican border wall.

"While Democrats appeared to have won this battle, the government is only opened until February 15th, and this band-aid will have trouble leading to a permanent solution as both sides are nowhere near a bending on (their) positions," said OANDA market analyst Edward Moya.

The pound was holding steady against the dollar ahead of Tuesday's vote on May's revised Brexit deal, with many believing that even if it is kicked out by MPs, Britain will still not leave the European Union without a deal.

There is a growing sense that May will seek a delay in the country's leaving date to give her more time to reach an agreement.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 20,708.22 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.7 percent at 27,763.28

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.1 percent at 2,629.86

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1415 from $1.1413 at 2130 GMT Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3196 from $1.3200

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.31 yen from 109.48

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 40 cents at $53.29 per barrel

Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN 36 cents at $61.28 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.8 percent at 24,737.20 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 6,809.22 (close)