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Asia: Markets rise as Wall Street, North Korea provide positive lead

[HONG KONG] Asian markets climbed on Wednesday following a rally on Wall Street as easing trade and Syria concerns allowed investors to concentrate on earnings and upbeat data, while fresh news on US-North Korea talks also provided support.

New York provided a strong lead, with all three main indexes posting healthy gains on the back of better-than-expected reports from heavyweights including Netflix, Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson.

Adding to the upbeat sentiment was China's announcement of a timetable to open up its car market as well as news the country's central bank had eased depositary requirements for most lenders to boost liquidity for businesses.

Hong Kong rose 0.6 per cent, Shanghai added 0.2 per cent, Sydney advanced 0.3 per cent and by the break Tokyo was 1.3 per cent higher.

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Singapore gained 0.9 per cent, while Wellington, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta all climbed, though Shanghai was unable to maintain its early momentum and dipped 0.3 per cent.

Seoul surged more than one percent and the won was also up as it emerged the US and North Korea had held "talks at the highest levels" as part of efforts to line up a summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in coming weeks.

The Washington Post also reported that CIA chief Mike Pompeo, Trump's pick to be secretary of state, made a secret visit to Pyongyang over the first weekend of April and met Kim.

The developments have provided a much-needed shot in the arm for traders after the recent upheaval caused by the simmering China-US trade spat and tensions in Syria following a US-led strike on the country.

Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at Oanda, said the markets were enjoying "a breath of fresh air as traders turn focus to data and corporate profits" though he warned they "remain cautious knowing stock markets are only one presidential tweet away from upsetting the apple cart".

China's announcement Tuesday of a timeline for opening up its auto sector hit mainland car companies, with BAIC hammered more than 10 per cent, Dongfeng losing five per cent and Brilliance China was off 7.5 per cent.

The move meets a longtime demand of the US and other countries seeking better access for their companies in the world's biggest car market and one of the largest markets for air travel.

Authorities said they will remove all limits on shareholding in local firms by 2022, when China will also abolish restrictions limiting foreign automakers to two joint-venture partners.