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Asia stocks inch up but gains capped by fresh Sino-US trade worries
[TOKYO] Asian shares caught the tail of a Wall Street rally on Friday, helped by China's better-than-expected export figures but fresh concerns about Sino-US trade ties are likely to limit gains in the region.
Weighing on risk appetite was a report from Bloomberg that Washington is delaying a decision about licences for US firms to restart trade with Huawei Technologies. That sent US stock futures down as much as 0.6 per cent in early Asian trade. They were last quoted 0.4 per cent lower on the day.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 per cent but was on track to lose 2.3 per cent for the week.
Japan's Nikkei average advanced 0.6 per cent, while Australian stocks stood flat and South Korean stocks gained 1.0 per cent.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 registered its largest one-day percentage gain in about two months on Thursday, with the Dow and the Nasdaq also climbing more than 1 per cent.
However, that optimism was dented by the Bloomberg report, which has reinforced concerns the deterioration in US-China relations will place additional strain on an already fragile global economy.
"The news about Huawei triggered the rise in the yen," said Junichi Ishikawa, senior foreign exchange strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo. "This is a reminder that the US-China trade dispute remains a risk, and this risk is not receding."
The yen strengthened as much as 0.4 per cent against the dollar to 105.70 yen on a fresh worries triggered by a Bloomberg report.
US data pointed to a robust labour market as the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, allaying some worries about a recession and helping Treasury yields rise.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields closed 2.4 basis points higher at 1.715 per cent after hitting 1.595 per cent on Wednesday, which was their lowest level since October 2016.
The offshore yuan was stable versus the dollar in early trade but could be closely watched as traders assess the latest developments in the rapidly escalating trade war between the United States and China.
"The US-China trade war is very serious. My hope is that the United States and China can find enough to agree on so that they can contain the push-and-shove that occurs when the emerging power meets the dominant power. The alternative is not pleasant," said veteran investor Dan Fuss, vice chairman of Loomis Sayles.
"I think the rate cuts by the Asian central banks were in response to the weakening business environment due to the trade wars. The Fed is influenced by the same things and that will probably cause a further rate cut here."
Central banks in New Zealand, Thailand and India stunned financial markets on Wednesday with a series of surprising interest rate cuts and pointing to policymakers' dwindling ammunition to fight off a downturn.
On Thursday, the Philippine central bank joined the bandwagon and cut its key policy rates, whilst keeping the door open for further easing.
Oil jumped more than 2 per cent on Thursday on expectations that falling prices could lead to production cuts.
Brent crude rose 0.4 per cent to US$57.63 per barrel and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude climbed 0.5 per cent to US$52.79.
Spot gold held near the more than six-year peak touched Wednesday, with rising 0.3 per cent to US$1,505.20 an ounce as investors sought the safety of the precious metal.