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Asia: Most markets climb at start of crunch week

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[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose on Monday as investors look ahead to a week chock-full of crucial events including the high-level trade talks between China and the United States.

Hopes that a deal can be struck between the world's top two economies has helped fuel a rally this month in global equities, which had been hammered in December.

While there have been conflicting reports on the likelihood of an agreement to solve the trade war, analysts say it is in the interests of both sides to reach a deal, with China's economy stuttering and President Donald Trump gearing up his re-election campaign.

"Although coming to an agreement is still tricky, both sides have little incentive to escalate tensions." said Tai Hui, chief market strategist for Asia-Pacific at JP Morgan Asset Management.

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"Markets will at least expect an extension of the truce in tariff increases beyond early March, while more difficult issues are still being worked on by both sides."

As well as the Wednesday-Thursday meeting in Washington, dealers also have in their sights the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting, where the central bank's statement will be pored over for an idea about its interest rate plans.

Also coming up is the release of US jobs and economic growth data, Chinese manufacturing activity results, another vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal and a number of big-name earnings, including from Apple, Samsung, Facebook and Alibaba.

FRAGILE SHUTDOWN TRUCEĀ 

In early trade, Shanghai was up more than one percent while Hong Kong added 0.7 per cent and Singapore put on 0.3 per cent. Seoul added 0.2 per cent, Manila was up one per cent and Taipei 0.5 per cent.

However, Tokyo dipped 0.3 per cent by the break.

Wall Street provided a positive lead after another batch of upbeat earnings reports, though observers said there was little major reaction to news that Trump had agreed to re-open the government after public services started to buckle in the longest-ever shutdown.

However, the deal that will see 800,000 workers finally get paid will only last a week and did nothing to resolve the row over the president's demand for billions of dollars to pay for a Mexican border wall.

"While Democrats appeared to have won this battle, the government is only opened until February 15th, and this band-aid will have trouble leading to a permanent solution as both sides are nowhere near a bending on (their) positions," said Oanda market analyst Edward Moya.

The pound was holding steady against the dollar ahead of Tuesday's vote on May's revised Brexit deal, with many believing that even if it is kicked out by MPs, Britain will still not leave the European Union without a deal.

There is a growing sense that Mrs May will seek a delay in the country's leaving date to give her more time to reach an agreement.

AFP