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Asia: Markets mixed in subdued post-Christmas trade

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Asian equities were largely subdued in mixed morning trade on Thursday, as recent gains held with investors still optimistic about US-China trade ties.

[HONG KONG] Asian equities were largely subdued in mixed morning trade on Thursday, as recent gains held with investors still optimistic about US-China trade ties.

Following the Christmas lull across world markets, eyes are now on US unemployment data due later in the day, and Japanese industrial and retail data scheduled for release on Friday.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index rose 0.5 per cent after a flat start and Shanghai put on 0.4 per cent, but Seoul was flat.

"Investor sentiment towards the global economy is improving," said Rakuten Securities chief strategist Masayuki Kubota.

Hong Kong, Sydney and Wellington were closed for a public holiday.

"With the... tech sector giants leading the way, investors are showing no fear as the market remains underpinned by the thawing in the US-China trade squabble and easy central bank policy," Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader, said in a report.

Volumes are typically light during the holiday season, and the muted activity in Asia followed sleepy Christmas Eve sessions in many world markets.

"No news being good news, Asia should maintain... gains ahead of a US session likely to be positive," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia-Pacific at Oanda, wrote in a note.

In oil markets, the main contracts were up as the commodity remained strong thanks to trade optimism as well as the Opec+ output reduction agreement.

Brent and West Texas Intermediate both rose 0.4 per cent.

"Oil prices continue to show year-end strength supported by a combination of definitive progress on the US-China trade deal, the... Opec/Opec+ agreement, and slowing shale activity," wrote AxiTrader's Innes.

"All of which is pointing to a stronger performance for oil prices in Q1 than anyone had thought only two months ago."

World markets were spooked by the long-running, tit-for-tat trade war between the United States and China, with analysts warning that the bruising rift between the world's two biggest economies could harm global economic growth.

Washington and Beijing have agreed to an initial trade deal, which they are expected to sign off on in January, and the improvement in ties has boosted markets with investors hoping for a smoother ride into the new year.

AFP