Asia Markets: Asian markets mixed amid conflicting reports of tariff rollbacks

Asian markets were mixed in early trading Friday as investors sought clarity after conflicting messages about the state of U.S.-China trade talks.

Chinese officials announced Thursday that a mutual rollback of tariffs had been agreed upon as part of a “phase one” trade deal, but while one U.S. official confirmed that, two others disputed it, according to the Wall Street Journal. Reuters reported that the subject of rolling back tariffs faced “fierce internal opposition” within the White House.

China got encouraging economic news as exports fell less than expected in October, down just 0.9% from the prior year compared to September’s 3.2% decline. Experts had expected a 3.1% fall. Chinese imports also fell less than expected.

Japan’s Nikkei NIK, +0.10%   inched up 0.1% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.44%   retreated 0.4%. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, +0.35%   rose 0.3% and the Shenzhen Composite 399106, +0.81%   gained 0.8%. South Korea’s Kospi 180721, -0.30%   declined 0.2%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan Y9999, -0.14%  , Singapore STI, -0.77%  , Malaysia FBMKLCI, -0.10%   and Indonesia JAKIDX, -0.06%   were mixed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -0.16%   dipped 0.2%.

Among individual stocks, SoftBank 9984, +2.70%   gained in Tokyo trading, as did Toyota 7203, +1.85%   , while retailers Fast Retailing 9983, -1.33%   and Rakuten 4755, -4.69%   fell. In Hong Kong, Geely Automobile 175, +2.62%   rose while New World Development 17, -1.54%   and Tencent 700, -1.14%   declined. SK Hynix 000660, -1.67%   fell in South Korea while Apple component maker Largan Precision 3008, +1.61%  advanced in Taiwan. Beach Energy BPT, +1.48%   and Woodside Petroleum WPL, +2.18%   gained in Australia.

If the deal pans out, “it will be an emphatic upside surprise for the global economy,” said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a report.

However, “we cannot rule out a gap” between the U.S. and Chinese positions, Varathan warned. And he said the Federal Reserve might turn “less dovish” if the deal “takes off with more promise than anticipated” and tariffs fall, easing pressure on U.S. economic growth.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index SPX, +0.27%   gained 0.3% to a record 3,085.18. It was up 0.7% at one point. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.66%   climbed 0.7% to a record 27,674.80. The Nasdaq composite COMP, +0.28%   finished just shy of its all-time high after rising 0.3% to 8,434.52.

Encouraging reports on the U.S. economy and corporate profits have helped drive stocks back to record heights. The job market is strong, and the Fed has cut interest rates three times.

That leaves the U.S.-Chinese trade war as the wild card for the global economy.

Benchmark U.S. crude CLZ19, -0.45%   fell 20 cents to $56.95 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 80 cents on Thursday to close at $57.15. Brent crude BRNF20, -0.29%  , used to price international oils, declined 10 cents to $62.19 per barrel in London. It advanced 55 cents the previous session to $62.29.

The dollar USDJPY, -0.04%   declined to 109.24 yen from Thursday’s 109.28 yen.

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