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Asia: Markets mixed as dealers await trade signals

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Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday as investors tracked developments in the China-US trade talks, while Chinese online retail titan Alibaba surged almost eight per cent on its Hong Kong debut.

[HONG KONG] Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday as investors tracked developments in the China-US trade talks, while Chinese online retail titan Alibaba surged almost eight per cent on its Hong Kong debut.

While the mood remains upbeat across trading floors that a partial tariffs agreement will eventually be signed, there is a sense of unease about the lack of detail from both sides.

On Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by phone to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, state media said.

"The two sides discussed solving issues regarding each other's core concerns, reached consensus on properly resolving related issues, and agreed to maintain communication on remaining issues in consultations on the 'phase one' deal," China's official Xinhua news agency said, without providing more details.

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The news came after Beijing said at the weekend it would hike penalties on violations of intellectual property rights while also looking at reducing the thresholds for criminal punishments of those who steal IP.

The IP issue is a major sticking point for the United States in the discussions and agreement on it is seen as key to their success.

The signals from the two economic giants are growing increasingly positive and observers said there is a growing need for both sides to nail the partial deal, which is part of a wider agreement.

ALIBABA STARS ON DEBUT 

"There are more incentives now on both sides to get this trade deal done compared to when the trade talks first fell apart earlier this year because the Chinese economy has slowed down much more since then and in the US, Trump is facing his 2020 election campaign," Amy Xie Patrick at Pendal Group told Bloomberg TV.

Wall Street's three main indexes ended at new records Monday.

However, Asia struggled to extend its own advances from the day before. Hong Kong and Shanghai both dropped 0.1 per cent while Singapore dropped 0.2 per cent and Jakarta turned negative.

However, Tokyo rose 0.6 per cent by lunch as the trade optimism lifted the dollar against the yen, providing a boost to Japanese exporters, while Seoul was up 0.4 per cent.

Sydney and Wellington both put on 0.6 per cent, while Taipei and Manila also edged higher.

In Hong Kong, Chinese e-commerce titan surged 7.7 per cent as it began trading for the first time following an US$11 billion initial public offering, which is the city's biggest since 2010.

Asia's most valuable firm, which is already traded in New York, said the decision to list in Hong Kong was a vote of confidence in the city, which has been hit by months of violent protests and the trade war.

AFP