Asian markets rise as China trade report lifts optimism

Asian markets rose on Wednesday as investors look ahead to a Group of Seven summit, while reports that China-US trade talks were progressing well provided some support.

The gains extend a broad rally across the region in recent days as optimism in the US economy, the world's biggest, has helped temper geopolitical worries.

The Nasdaq hit another record in New York even as the lead from US traders was generally tepid, but eyes are now on the Quebec gathering of G7 leaders, with world trade high on the agenda after Donald Trump hit Canada, Mexico and the European Union with steel and aluminium tariffs.

The move was condemned by Washington's allies, with Mexico on Tuesday announcing measures on a range of US goods from pork to bourbon, just as it holds trilateral talks on a long-standing deal with Canada and the US.

However, Bloomberg News reported that China had offered to ramp up purchases of various US goods during talks this week, while Washington would ease US buying restrictions on Chinese telecom-equipment giant ZTE.

"The president is expected to meet with his advisers on whether to move forward with this proposal or not. It has the ring of truth around it given the Chinese said the other day that all bets are off the table if the US imposes the tariffs," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

"They've thus offered both the carrot and the stick."

'Free-for-all'

In equities trading, Hong Kong rose 0.5%, having risen for four straight days already, while Tokyo ended 0.4% higher. Shanghai was marginally higher.

Sydney climbed 0.5% after data showed Australia's economy beat expectations in January-March by expanding at its fastest rate since the second quarter of last year. The Australian dollar rose 0.5%.

Wellington added 0.6%, Taipei put on 0.9% and Manila was 0.1% higher.

But while markets are positive, trading floors remain susceptible to bad news, warned Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

"Despite the absence of escalation in geopolitical risk, traders are all too knowing that we're little more than a spark away from re-igniting a free-for-all, whether its EU political risk, trade wars or the more probable escalation in Middle East tensions," he said.

On currency markets, the dollar is holding gains after last week's strong jobs report and expectations the Federal Reserve will lift interest rates next week.

And the euro was also enjoying attention again after last week's sell-off fuelled by political turmoil in Italy and Spain. The single currency was above $1.1750, having fallen to a 10-month low near $1.15 last week.

However, there are concerns that the new eurosceptic government in Rome is on a collision course with its EU partners over debt rules and eurozone reform. Dealers are also keeping watch on a European Central Bank meeting next week.

The positive, risk-on mood helped high-yielding units, with the South Korean won 0.4% up, Indonesia's rupiah 0.3% higher and the Singapore dollar gaining 0.2%.

In early European trade London, Frankfurt and Paris each rose 0.2%.

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