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Asia: Markets swing but trade deal keeps mood buoyant


[HONG KONG] Asian markets fluctuated on Friday as investors await fresh catalysts to drive business, though with the China-US trade deal out the way and Christmas approaching many are in wind-down mode.

Wall Street provided yet another record-breaking lead, with all three main indexes being helped to all-time highs by news that a revised US-Canada-Mexico pact had finally been agreed.

Concerns that pen had not yet been put to paper on the China-US pact were soothed by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said a technical review was taking place and it would be signed in early January.

Regional equities swung back and forth through the morning session, with investors now turning an eye to the festive break and observers indicating next year could see further gains.

"Agreement of the phase one deal between the US and China has removed quite a lot of the uncertainties in the outlook for 2020," said Stephen Innes, senior market analyst at AxiTrader. "And with the global growth revival trade looking better and better by the day, equity investors are revelling in the holiday cheer."

In early trade Hong Kong was up 0.4 per cent and Shanghai put on 0.2 per cent, while Singapore and Wellington each added 0.1 per cent, and Seoul also rose 0.3 per cent.

Tokyo eased 0.3 per cent by the break, while Sydney was down 0.2 per cent, with Taipei and Manila also in the red.

On currency markets the pound continued to struggle against the dollar after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week revived no-deal Brexit worries by saying he wanted to pass a law preventing an extension to the next phase of EU talks.

Sterling has plunged below levels it was at before last week's landslide win for the premier, who said he wants a full break by the end of next year, raising the chances of leaving without a trade deal in place.

Adding to downward pressure on the British unit was the Bank of England leaving the door open for an interest rate cut next month as it assesses the outlook for the economy.

Observers said there was a two-thirds chance of a reduction in borrowing costs.