Asia Markets

Asia stocks mostly higher as investors watch for US-China trade updates

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia were mostly higher on Monday as investors looked for further developments on U.S.-China trade.
  • Chinese Vice Premier Liu He had a phone call Saturday morning with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer regarding a "phase-one" trade deal, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported over the weekend.
  • That came after White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said late last week the two economic powerhouses were "getting close" to a deal.

Stocks in Asia were mostly higher on Monday as investors looked for further developments on U.S.-China trade.

Mainland Chinese stocks closed higher, with the Shanghai composite up 0.62% to about 2,909.20 and the Shenzhen composite gaining 0.715% to approximately 1,617.19. The Shenzhen component also advanced 0.7% to 9,715.27.

The moves came as the People's Bank of China set its seven-day reverse repurchase (repo) rate at 2.5%.

"This is the first change to this rate since it was hiked in March 2018," Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, said in a note. "The move is a key step towards lowering marginal funding costs for banks, which rely heavily on repos as a source of short-run liquidity."

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.35% to close at 26,681.09, with shares of Chinese tech juggernaut Tencent jumping 3.13%.

The moves came amid ongoing turmoil in Hong Kong, as the embattled city continues to be rocked by civil unrest that has now lasted for months. On Monday, a local high court ruled that a face mask ban enacted last month was "incompatible" with the city's mini-constitution.

"One should divorce the markets issue, to an extent, from the political issue," Hugh Young, managing director of the Asia Pacific region at Aberdeen Standard Investments, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Monday.

"The stocks listed there represent a lot more than Hong Kong itself," Young said.

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.49% to close at 23,416.76 while the Topix index gained 0.24% to end its trading day at 1,700.72. Shares of Z Holdings — formerly known as Yahoo Japan — and Line rose 1.2% and 2.18%, respectively. The moves came as Softbank Corp announced plans to merge Z Holdings, its subsidiary, with Naver's Line.

South Korea's Kospi, on the other hand, slipped slightly to close at 2,160.69. Shares in Australia also edged lower, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.4% on the day to 6,766.80.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 0.5% higher.

US-China trade

Investors continued to monitor developments on U.S.-China trade. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He had a phone call Saturday morning with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer regarding a "phase-one" trade deal, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported over the weekend.

The two sides had "constructive discussions" about "each other's core concerns" and agreed to remain in close contact, Xinhua reported. The call came at the request of Mnuchin and Lighthizer, according to Xinhua.

That came after White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said late last week the two economic powerhouses were "getting close" to a deal.

"US‑China trade and technology negotiations will remain front of mind this week. So far, a 'phase one' trade deal remains elusive. Despite positive comments from US officials, the US and China appear unable to agree on core components of the deal," strategists at Commonwealth Bank of Australia wrote in a note.

"In our view, there is a risk that some of the recent optimism around tariffs begins to recede," the strategists said. "The US is still scheduled to lift tariffs by 15% on US$156 (billion) of Chinese imports on 15 December. Removal of existing tariffs appears to be one of the key sticking points in current negotiations."

Singapore's exports for October declined more than expected, Reuters reported Monday citing official data. Non-oil domestic exports dropped 12.3% year-on-year, against expectations of a 10.4% decline in a Reuters poll.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.905 after seeing highs above 98.4 last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.94 per dollar after seeing highs below 108.4 in the previous trading week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6816 after declining from highs above $0.684 last week.

Oil prices edged higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours. The international benchmark Brent crude futures contract nudged fractionally higher to $63.32 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were also 0.28% higher at $57.88 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert and Spencer Kimball contributed to this report.