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Asian Shares Rise As Trade-war Worries Ease

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Most Asian stocks closed higher on Thursday after the White House indicated that some countries could be exempt from President Donald Trump's planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Better-than-expected economic data from China and Japan also offered some support.

Chinese stocks ended higher after official data showed China's exports grew at a faster-than-expected pace in February.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 17.63 points or 0.54 percent to close at 3,289.29 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumped 457.60 points or 1.52 percent to 30,654.52.

China's exports jumped 44.5 percent year-over-year in February in dollar terms, much faster than the 11.0 percent rise economists had forecast.

Imports climbed 6.3 percent from a year ago, slower than the expected growth of 8.0 percent. The trade surplus totaled $33.74 billion, in contrast to the expected deficit of $5.7 billion.

Japanese stocks rebounded, although markets ended off their day's highs ahead of the ECB and BoJ meetings and Trump's final announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The Nikkei average ended up 115.35 points or 0.54 percent at 21,368.07 after rising more than 1 percent earlier in the day. The broader Topix index closed 0.35 percent higher at 1,709.95.

Honda Motor and Sony rose about 1 percent on a weaker yen. Steelmaker Japan Steel Works jumped 3.2 percent and Kobe Steel rallied 3 percent as worries about a trade war eased. Nintendo, Tokyo Electron and Eisai soared 4-10 percent.

Japan's GDP grew a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2017, the Cabinet Office said in Thursday's revision. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 0.2 percent after last month's preliminary reading suggested a gain of 0.1 percent.

Australian shares rose as trade war fears eased and the trade surplus figures for January topped forecasts.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 40.90 points or 0.69 percent to finish at 5,942.90 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 41.20 points or 0.69 percent at 6,046.60.

The big four banks rose between 0.4 percent and 1.4 percent after RBA Governor Philip Lowe sounded upbeat about domestic economic growth.

Mining stocks ended mixed, with Rio Tinto rising 0.6 percent and Fortescue Metals Group climbing 2.1 percent while BHP Billiton dropped 2 percent.

Energy firms also turned in a mixed performance after oil prices fell more than 2 percent overnight on data showing an increase in U.S. crude inventories and output.

Seoul stocks rose sharply to close at a more than one-week high on expectations that Trump's trade tariffs are likely to be differentiated by country and product. The benchmark Kospi jumped 31.26 points or 1.30 percent to finish at 2,433.08.

Shipbuilders led the surge, with Samsung Heavy Industries rising 8.8 percent and Hyundai Heavy Industries gaining 5.5 percent.

New Zealand shares followed global markets higher, with the benchmark S&P/NZX-50 index closing up 74.36 points or 0.90 percent at 8,358.70 despite many companies going ex-dividend.

A2 Milk shares jumped 4.9 percent while poultry producer Tegel Group Holdings slumped 6 percent after an update that its 2018 earnings will miss target.

Malaysia's KLSE Composite index was up 0.2 percent and India's Sensex was rising half a percent while benchmark indexes in Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan were up between 0.7 percent and 1 percent.

Overnight, U.S. stocks fluctuated before ending mixed as ADP jobs data and the Fed's Beige Book report painted a positive picture of the world's largest economy.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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