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Asia: Stocks edge up despite trade war rhetoric

[HONG KONG] Asia stocks staged a modest bounce-back Wednesday after recent market jitters but gains were tepid as investors eyed a heating-up of trade rhetoric between the world's two biggest economies.

Tokyo was the top gainer in the region, rising 0.5 per cent at the open driven both by a bullish session on Wall Street and a weaker yen, which benefits exporters.

However, the gains quickly evaporated in Japan, and markets in Australia and South Korea were marginally in the red as traders digested the latest volley in a brewing trade war.

The United States published a list of Chinese imports worth around US$50 billion that could be targeted by tariffs - a significant escalation in the confrontation with Beijing.

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China responded sharply, saying it was ready to retaliate against what it described as a "unilateralistic and protectionist" move that serves neither country's interests.

"Trade war is still in play," noted Stephen Innes, an analyst at Oanda Securities, saying rhetoric between China and the US could rise further.

Chinese stocks opened modestly higher as consumer liquor shares led the gains, with Shanghai climbing 0.3 per cent.

It followed a volatile session on Wall Street, where US stocks finished the trading day Tuesday with a strong rally.

The Dow Jones Index closed up 1.7 per cent and the broad-based S&P 500 was up 1.3 per cent.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq also finished in the green, up one per cent, mainly on bargain-hunting after suffering a pummelling in recent days.

Large technology companies that have been slumping all enjoyed gains, including Facebook, Google parent Alphabet and Intel.

Amazon also pushed 1.5 per cent higher as investors welcomed headlines that suggested President Donald Trump did not plan to follow up a series of irate tweets with concrete action against the company.