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Asia cheered as Trump delays tariff deadline

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[SYDNEY] Asian share markets looked well set on Monday after US President Donald Trump said he would delay a planned increase on Chinese imports as talks between the two sides were making "substantial progress".

The Australian dollar, a liquid proxy for China investments, got a mild lift from the news and further gains were expected for the yuan.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.14 per cent to the highest since October, and is up 10 per cent for the year so far.

Futures pointed to a firmer opening for Japan's Nikkei, while E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 edged up 0.3 per cent. 

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Shanghai blue chips are already up almost 17 per cent so far this year, helped in part by Beijing's efforts to pump new credit into the financial system.

Mr Trump on Sunday tweeted he would push back the March 1 deadline for higher tariffs and looked forward to a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping when a deal was sealed.

US and Chinese negotiators were discussing the thorny issue of how to enforce a potential trade deal on Sunday after moving ahead on structural issues, a source said.

Mr Trump tweeted progress had been made on intellectual property, technology transfers, agriculture, services and currencies.

Hopes for an end to the trade standoff had helped the S&P 500 post its highest close since Nov 8 on Friday, while the Dow and Nasdaq boasted a ninth straight week of gains.

Stocks have also been underpinned by a dovish shift from the US Federal Reserve which has set aside rate hikes for now. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will testify on US monetary policy on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Expect him to emphasise patience, stating that any more hikes this year would likely require some pickup in inflation," wrote analysts at TD Securities in a note.

"On the balance sheet, he will not front-run the FOMC and announce anything new, but repeat that the Committee expects the runoff could end later this year."

In currencies, the trade news deflated the safe-haven yen a little and lifted the US dollar to 110.76. The euro was flat at US$1.1336 and still well within the US$1.1213/1.1570 trading range that has held since mid-October.

Against a basket of currencies the US dollar was a fraction firmer at 96.514.

Sterling was idling at US$1.3061 as markets awaited some clarity on where Brexit talks were heading.

Prime Minister Theresa May put off a vote on her Brexit deal until as late as March 12 - just 17 days before Britain is due to leave the EU - setting up a showdown this week with lawmakers who accuse her of running out the clock.

The Telegraph reported Mrs May was considering whether to delay Britain's exit for up to two months.

In commodity markets, spot gold edged up a touch to US$1,328.11 per ounce.

Oil prices were near their highest since mid-November, despite record output from the United States.

US crude was last off 9 cents at US$57.17 a barrel, while Brent crude futures eased 15 cents to US$66.97.

REUTERS