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Stocks in Asia mostly higher on positive US-China trade sentiment

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia were mostly higher.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he was open to postponing the March 2 deadline for tariffs if Washington and Beijing can reach a trade deal soon.

Major stock markets in Asia closed higher on Wednesday amid positive sentiment on the U.S.-China trade front.

The mainland Chinese markets were higher on the day. The Shenzhen component rose 2.012 percent to close at 8,171.21 and the Shenzhen composite gained 1.872 percent to finish its trading day at 1,389.68. The Shanghai composite recovered from earlier losses to close 1.84 percent higher at 2,721.07.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained more than 1 percent, in its final hour of trading.

Japan's Nikkei 225 extended gains from the previous session, rising 1.34 percent to close at 21,144.48 while the Topix index advanced 1.06 percent to finish at 1,589.33. South Korea's Kospi also gained 0.5 percent to close at 2,201.48.

The ASX 200 in Australia, on the other hand, slipped 0.25 to close at 6,063.6. Shares of oil company Beach Energy surged 5.33 percent after it announced increased sales revenue and improved guidance in its half year report for the 2019 financial year.

The broad MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded higher by 0.56 percent at 516.59 as of 3:18 p.m. HK/SIN, holding near levels not seen since early Oct. 2018.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

Trump may postpone trade deadline

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he was open to postponing the March 2 deadline for tariffs if Washington and Beijing can reach a trade deal soon.

The March 2 deadline is crucial in the negotiations as U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods will increase if a deal is not struck before then. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, are in Beijing this week for another round of negotiations with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

A morning note from strategists at DBS Group Research sounded a warning "not to count the chickens before they hatch."

"The pendulum on whether a US-China trade deal could be struck has been swinging with US President Donald Trump's comments on his on/off meeting with China President Xi Jinping to extending talks beyond the 1st of March. The extension will only be possible if China accedes to US's push for enforcement mechanisms on areas such as forced technology transfer and intellectual property protection, " they said.

"I'm expecting what I've said all along," Andrew Collier, managing director at Orient Capital Research, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Wednesday.

Collier said the two countries will likely agree on more market access, increased purchase of goods, and what is being termed a " snap back." This means that if there is no improvement in intellectual property protection and state subsidies, the tariffs will be reimposed, he said.

"The snap back would probably be over a six to 12 month period and the question is ... how long is that period and what kind of snap back tariffs will they put in place?" Collier said. "That's what they're fighting over now, I believe."

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.676 after seeing a high around 97.2 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.63 against the dollar after seeing an earlier high of 110.41. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7126 after rising from lows below $0.707 in the previous session.

Oil prices rose in the afternoon of Asian trade following Tuesday's gains. The international benchmark Brent crude futures contract rose 0.98 percent to $63.03 per barrel. The U.S. crude futures contract gained 0.96 percent to $53.61 per barrel.

— CNBC's Yun Li contributed to this report.