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Asia stocks rise amid optimism on US-China trade, ECB stimulus

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia rose on Friday.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump signaled Thursday he would consider an interim trade deal with China, though it would not be preferred.
  • Meanwhile, the ECB on Thursday cut its deposit rate by 10 basis points and launched a new bond buying program.
  • Markets in China and South Korea were closed on Friday for holidays.

Stocks in Asia rose on Friday as investors digested a series of overnight developments on the U.S.-China trade front as well as the European Central Bank (ECB).

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 1.05% to close at 21,988.29 as shares of index heavyweights Fast Retailing and Softbank Group gained 0.62% and 3.2%, respectively. The Topix index finished its trading day 0.93% higher at 1,609.87.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 0.68%, as of its final hour of trading, with shares of life insurer AIA up 1.2%. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.21% higher at 6,669.20.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 0.52%.

Markets in China and South Korea were closed on Friday for holidays.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

US-China trade developments

The moves in Asia came after U.S. President Donald Trump signaled Thursday he would consider an interim trade deal with China, though it would not be preferred.

The president told reporters he would like to ink a full agreement with Beijing, however he left the door open to striking a limited deal.

Trump's statements added to confusion sparked earlier in the day about what the White House would accept in its ongoing negotiations with China. U.S. stock indexes on Thursday initially climbed on a report that the Trump administration talked about crafting an interim agreement. A White House official then said the U.S. is "absolutely not" considering such a deal, causing markets to give up some of those gains.

Recent developments over the past week have sparked hopes of a thaw in U.S.-China trade relations, with Trump announcing on Wednesday a delay in the implementation tariffs on Chinese goods in October as a "gesture of goodwill." China also recently bought its most significant purchases of U.S. soybeans since June, ahead of an expected round of high-level negotiations next month.

Still, one strategist warned that the road to resolution is "gonna be a longer process than most people think."

"I think both the United States and China are preparing for a much longer or prolonged and drawn out period of uncertainty," Joseph Zidle, chief investment strategist at Blackstone, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Friday.

""If you think about the way a 24 hour news cycle works here in the United States, if President Trump were to get China to agree on major concessions at this point, it really wouldn't count for much ... come the November 2020 reelection," Zidle said.

ECB stimulus

Meanwhile, the ECB on Thursday cut its deposit rate by 10 basis points and launched a new bond buying program. The central bank also said it will buy €20 (approx. $22) billion worth of assets for as long as needed.

In a press conference following the decision, ECB President Mario Draghi urged governments to take fiscal measures to supplement the central bank's monetary stimulus and reinvigorate the euro zone economy.

"Draghi's claim the ECB can buy bonds for 'a long time' without changes to its issuer limits is not convincing and suggests the ECB will run out of government bonds to buy sooner rather than later," Elias Haddad, senior currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a note. The ECB's holdings of German bunds has already reached the maximum 33% issuers debt limit, Haddad pointed out, referring to German sovereign bonds.

"Nevertheless, the ECB's looser monetary policy stance remains an important EUR/USD headwind over the medium term," he added.

The euro was last at $1.1089, after falling to levels below $1.095 yesterday.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 98.191 following a slip from highs above 98.8 seen yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.00 after touching an earlier low of 108.26. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6869 following an earlier low of $0.6856.

Oil prices dipped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract slipping 0.3% to $60.20 per barrel and U.S. crude futures declining 0.24% to $54.96 per barrel.

— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk and Elliot Smith contributed to this report.