Stocks rise as trade optimism adds fuel to rally

Stocks in Asia gained Friday, building on the recent rally in risk assets, amid optimism for progress in US-China trade talks.

Shares in Tokyo and Hong Kong led the advance, while futures pointed to a higher start to the European session.

The S&P 500 Index on Thursday exceeded its 50-day average for the first time since December after the Wall Street Journal reported Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed easing China tariffs.

While the Treasury denied that reporting, the story reinforced previous signs the administration is more eager for a deal to help support financial markets. The dollar was little changed, while oil extended a third week of gains toward $53 a barrel in New York.

"Certainly evidence that the administration is approaching a deal would be good news," said Laura Rosner, senior economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives.

"We’ve heard noise around trade policy before though, so I would want to make sure the progress happens and sticks."

Meantime, offering some relief from concerns about a worsening outlook for US growth was the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s factory index, which rebounded in January after three months of losses.

Risk assets are posting a strong January amid signs of support from policy makers in the US and China, with global equities set for a fourth week of gains.

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said the American economy is doing well, but "I think we can easily be patient" in deciding on further interest-rate increases, echoing dovish messages from colleagues in prior weeks.

The pound remained near a two-month high after UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said that a second referendum remains an option in the Brexit saga.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

Japan’s Topix index rose 0.9% at the 15:00 close in Tokyo. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.6%. Hang Seng rallied 1.2%. Futures on the S&P 500 rose 0.3%. The S&P 500 Index advanced 0.8%Thursday. Futures on Euro Stoxx 50 gained 0.7%.

Currencies

The yen was at 109.37 per dollar, down 0.1%. The offshore yuan fell 0.1% to 6.7851 per dollar. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was steady. The euro bought $1.1393, up less than 0.1%. The pound was flat at $1.2982.

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries was at 2.74%, down one basis point. Australia’s 10-year yield gained four basis points to 2.32%.

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude rose 1.3% to $52.76 a barrel. Gold was flat at $1 291.52 an ounce.

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