Most Asia markets rise on US-China trade talk hopes, though Samsung warning fans tech fears

Investors looking at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai, China.
Investors looking at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai, China.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets mostly rose on Tuesday (Jan 8) with a little more optimism in the air than in recent weeks as China and the US hold trade talks and the Federal Reserve flags a more dovish stance.

Wall Street provided another positive lead, extending Friday's surge, with Chinese monetary easing at the weekend adding to the buying sentiment.

Focus is now on Beijing, where Chinese and American officials were holding a second day of discussions aimed at resolving their almost year-old trade row.

While there is little expectation this week for a full agreement on the issue, which has seen the two sides exchanges tariffs on goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars, there are hopes they can make some headway.

News that top economic negotiator and Vice-Premier Liu He was also attending the talks provided some extra support, after Donald Trump on Friday said he thought a deal could be done.

"While we don't expect a full resolution in trade tension between China and the United States in the foreseeable future, small steps in progress are likely to be taken favourably by investors," said chief market strategist for Asia-Pacific Tai Hui at JP Morgan Asset Management.

"The latest positive signals from the Trump administration of prospects of reaching some form of agreement and Vice-Premier Liu He attending the negotiations should continue to cheer the market in the near term."


In morning trade, Hong Kong, which jumped almost three per cent over the previous two days, edged up 0.1 per cent while Tokyo rose 0.8 per cent by the break and Sydney was 0.5 per cent up.


Singapore added 0.3 per cent while Wellington and Jakarta rose but Shanghai fell 0.4 per cent, Seoul was off 0.2 per cent and Taipei slipped 0.3 per cent.

While the mood is somewhat happier than last month, analysts were a little worried by Samsung's forecast of a near-30 per cent drop in operating profit for the December quarter.

The South Korean behemoth cited "lacklustre demand in the memory business and intensifying competition in the smartphone business", fanning worries about the wider technology sector.

Its US rival Apple sent shudders through markets last week when it warned of a bigger-than-expected drop in revenues owing to falling Chinese demand and highlighting the impact of the trade war.

"When Apple sounded the alarm bells for last-quarter results, there was some thought the drops in China sales was an anti-Apple backlash due to escalating US-China tensions," said Mr Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA.

"But these Samsung results are quite damning suggesting there... (is) a broader-based retail and manufacturer slowdown afoot."

On currency markets, the dollar saw more selling pressure after Fed boss Jerome Powell said the bank had no "pre-set" plan for raising interest costs and was keeping a close watch on financial developments, fuelling hopes it will slow its pace of hikes.

The greenback was mixed against its major peers but retreated against higher-yielding units including the Australian dollar, Indonesian rupiah, Mexican peso and Russian ruble.