Asia Markets

Asia stocks mostly higher amid trade confusion

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia mostly rose on Thursday.
  • Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released Thursday showed retail sales in the country being largely unchanged from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis.
  • In an unexpected decision, the Reserve Bank of India kept interest rates unchanged. Markets had been widely anticipating a sixth rate cut from the Indian central bank.

Stocks in Asia were mostly higher on Thursday as investors digested recent developments on U.S.-China trade.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 0.71% to close at 23,300.09 as shares of index heavyweight and robot maker Fanuc jumped 1.98%. The Topix index added 0.48% to end its trading day 1,711.41.

Mainland Chinese stocks gained on the day, with the Shanghai composite up 0.74% to about 2,899.47 and the Shenzhen component rising 1.15% to 9,799.07. The Shenzhen composite added 1.147% to approximately 1,626.97. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.56%, as of its final hour of trading.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia also advanced after leading losses among regional markets on Wednesday, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 1.16% higher at 6,683.00.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released Thursday showed retail sales in the country were largely flat from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis. That was below expectations for a 0.3% increase from a Reuters poll.

South Korea's Kospi, on the other hand, lagged as it slipped 0.39% to close at 2,060.74.

India's Nifty 50 was largely flat, recovering from a slip seen earlier after the Reserve Bank of India unexpectedly kept interest rates unchanged. Markets had been widely anticipating a sixth rate cut from the Indian central bank amid a notable slowdown in the country's economy.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.57% higher.

US-China trade confusion

Investor reacted to overnight developments on U.S.-China trade, after a news report from Bloomberg said Washington and Beijing were edging closer to a trade deal.

The Bloomberg report, which cited people familiar with the talks, said the two countries were moving closer to agreeing on the amount of tariffs that would be rolled back in a so-called phase-one trade deal. U.S. President Donald Trump also said Wednesday that trade talks with China were going well.

That came just a day after Trump said Tuesday he may delay a trade deal with China till after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, leading to a sell-off across markets globally. The recent developments come ahead of a closely watched date of Dec. 15, when additional tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. are set to go into effect.

"(Trump) likes to keep everybody off balance," William Reinsch, senior adviser and Scholl chair in international business at CSIS, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

"We're headed into a deadline. He has to make a decision about more tariffs by December 15th, so I think he wants to do things that will ... keep the Chinese off balance, keep them confused, and keep the pressure on," Reinsch said.

"The tariffs are crucial, it's one of our key risks that we see in the market," Adrian Zuercher, head of Asia-Pacific asset allocation at UBS Global Wealth Management, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Thursday. "We see a relatively good chance that there's a sort of first phase deal and maybe the December tariffs get pushed out or actually even removed."

Overnight stateside, the major indexes rebounded from a 3-day losing streak following the Bloomberg report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 146.97 points higher at 27,649.78 while the S&P 500 gained 0.6% to end its trading day at 3,112.76. The Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.5% to close at 8,566.67.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 97.562 after seeing highs above 97.7 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.81 against the dollar after weakening from levels below 108.5 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.684 after bouncing from lows around $0.681 in the previous session.

Oil prices dipped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures 0.11% lower at $62.93 per barrel. U.S. crude futures declined 0.26% to $58.28 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.