Asia Markets

Asia stocks rise, yuan jumps amid increased trade optimism

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia rose on Tuesday as market sentiment improved ahead of the phase one trade deal signing between China and the U.S. later this week.
  • China's yuan-denominated imports from the U.S. rebounded in November and December.
  • Ahead of the signing of a U.S.-China phase one trade deal, the U.S. on Monday removed China from its currency manipulator list.
  • The Chinese currency has been appreciating, jumping to highs this week.

Shares in Asia bounded higher on Tuesday as market sentiment improved ahead of the phase one trade deal signing between China and the U.S. later this week. Optimism rose further after Washington said Beijing was no longer a currency manipulator.

The Nikkei 225 climbed 0.73% to close at 24,025.17 and the Topix index was up 0.31% to 1,740.53 after Japanese markets returned from a public holiday on Monday. Shares of technology conglomerate Softbank surged 3.51%.

In South Korea, the Kospi gained 0.43% to close at 2,238.88.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 0.85% as major miners gained. Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto both jumped 1.85%, and BHP Group rose 1.32%.

Chinese markets were the outliers during Tuesday's session. The Shanghai composite traded down 0.28% to close at 3,106.82, and the Shenzhen composite fell 0.23% to 1,818.13. The Shenzhen component lost 0.47% to close at 10,988.77.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index declined 0.28% during the last hour of trade.

Overall, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.18% by Tuesday afternoon.

China's dollar-denominated imports from the U.S. rebounded in November and December, Reuters reported citing data from China's customs released on Tuesday. It was the first time that its exports went up since March last year.

In December China's trade surplus with the U.S. was $23.18 billion — down from $24.6 billion in November.

In particular, China's soybean and pork imports from the U.S. significantly rebounded in December. Washington has demanded that Beijing buys more agricultural goods from the U.S. as part of their phase on trade deal — the signing of that agreement is set to happen on Wednesday in Washington. The deal is also expected to involve some rollback of tariffs.

Ahead of the signing, the U.S. removed China from the currency manipulator list on Monday — more than five months after the U.S. Treasury put the country on it, saying that Beijing has been keeping the yuan artificially weaker.

Even before it was removed from the list, the yuan had been appreciating and jumped to a five-month high last week.

On Monday the Chinese currency strengthened further to the level below 6.90 — which was the strongest level to the dollar since Aug. 1. It continued appreciating on Tuesday — the offshore yuan was at 6.8808, from last week's high of 6.9775. The onshore yuan was last at 6.8809, as compared to a high of 6.9786 last week.

U.S. markets notched record highs again amid the increased optimism.

The S&P 500 gained 0.7% to close at 3,288.13, hitting a record high. The Nasdaq Composite also notched an all-time high, advancing 1% to 9,273.93 as Tesla shares surged. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 83.28 points, or 0.3% to 28,907.05.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 97.373, falling back from a high of 97.380 earlier.

The safe-haven Japanese yen weakened as markets took a risk-on mode, trading at 110.08 versus the greenback, from the 109 level earlier. The Australian dollar didn't budge much, at around $0.6904.

Oil prices were little changed in the afternoon of Asia trading hours. U.S. crude futures traded flat to $58.09 per barrel, and Brent crude edged up 0.14% to $64.29 per barrel.

What's on tap for Tuesday (all times in HK/SIN):

  • 5:00 p.m.: China's new loans, loan growth, total social financing