Asia Markets

China stocks soar almost 3% as Beijing says it will trim tariffs on some US goods

Key Points
  • Mainland Chinese stocks were among the biggest gainers of the day, as both the Shenzhen composite and Shenzhen component surged almost 3% each.
  • On the U.S.-China trade front, Beijing said Thursday it would halve tariffs on hundreds of U.S. imports from 1:01 p.m. on Feb. 14, according to a statement on the Ministry of Finance's website. The ministry, based in Beijing, did not specify what time zone.
  • The moves came as investors digested overnight developments on the coronavirus outbreak, following unconfirmed reports of breakthroughs in the development of a drug for the disease.

Stocks in Asia jumped on Thursday as investors in the region reacted to positive developments on the U.S.-China trade front.

Beijing said Thursday it would halve tariffs on hundreds of U.S. imports from 1:01 p.m. on Feb. 14, according to a statement on the Ministry of Finance's website. The ministry, based in Beijing, did not specify what time zone.

The statement said the move was made in order to "advance the healthy and stable development of China-U.S. trade."

The adjustment would apply to about $75 billion worth of imports from the U.S. that China slapped with tariffs on Sept. 1, 2019, according to a separate statement on the ministry's website.

Mainland Chinese stocks were among the biggest gainers of the day regionally following that announcement, with the Shenzhen composite surging 2.895% to end its trading day at approximately 1,727.24 while the Shenzhen component advanced 2.87% to close at 10,601.34. The Shanghai composite rose 1.72% to close at about 2,866.51.

Stocks in Japan also saw strong gains on the day, with the Nikkei 225 up 2.38% to 23,873.59 and the Topix index gaining 2.07% to 1,736.98. South Korea's Kospi soared 2.88% to close at 2,227.94.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumped 2.35%, as of its final hour of trading.

Elsewhere, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 ended its trading day 1.05% higher at 7,049.20. A Thursday data release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the country's retail sales turnover declined 0.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis in December as compared to November.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 1.55% higher.

U.S. futures also pointed to gains for the major indexes when they open on Thursday morning stateside. As of 2:16 a.m. ET Thursday, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 169 points, implying an opening gain of 178.15 points for the index. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures also pointed to a positive start for the two indexes at the open on Thursday.

Coronavirus updates

The moves came as investors digested overnight developments on the coronavirus outbreak, following unconfirmed reports of breakthroughs in the development of a drug for the disease.

Reuters cited reports on Wednesday that said a research team at Zhejiang University had found a drug to treat people infected by the new coronavirus. The World Health Organization, however, said in a statement: "There are no known effective therapeutics against this 2019-nCoV."

Meanwhile, a scientist leading the U.K.'s research into a coronavirus vaccine told Sky News on Wednesday that his team had made a "significant breakthrough" by cutting a portion of the normal development time to 14 days from two to three years.

UOB Private Bank's Francis Tan told CNBC on Thursday that two factors are driving market movements. Firstly, the investment strategist said, the market is anticipating that a "vaccine should be coming soon."

"The second factor, which I think is a lot more important especially since the global financial crisis after (2008 and 2009), is that there's ample liquidity in the market," Tan told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Thursday. "Any time we see a pullback in the risk assets, (the) market seems to be ready to pump in more liquidity thinking that: 'Hey this is a great opportunity, a draw down of 2 to 3%, maybe it's time for us to get back at a lower price.'"

"That doesn't give me comfort because if you look at the numbers … the rate of increase on a daily basis is still going higher," he said. "There could still be drawdowns and the market is just pumping in more liquidity."

As of Wednesday night, the virus has already killed more than 500 people in China while more than 28,000 have been infected, according to the country's National Health Commission.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 98.288 after rising from lows around 97.9 earlier.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.88 per dollar after weakening from levels below 109.5 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6748 after touching an earlier low of $0.6741.

Oil prices advanced in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures adding 1.65% to $56.19 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 2.09% to $51.81 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert and Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.