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Asian Markets In Positive Territory On Trade Optimism

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Asian stock markets, led by Japan, are in positive territory on Friday amid optimism that U.S.-China trade tensions may ease after the Wall Street Journal said the U.S. is considering lifting tariffs on Chinese goods in an effort to calm markets and give Beijing an incentive to make deeper concessions.

Citing people close to internal deliberations, the Wall Street Journal said that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed the idea of lifting some or all tariffs in a series of strategy meetings.

The Australian market is rising for a fourth straight day. Mining, tech and bank stocks are among the major gainers.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 22.20 points or 0.38 percent to 5,872.30, after rising to a high of 5,875.90 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 21.90 points or 0.37 percent to 5,931.70. Australian stocks hit over two-month highs on Thursday.

The major miners are higher after Rio Tinto reported its production results for 2018. BHP Group and Fortescue Metals are advancing more than 1 percent each, while Rio Tinto is adding 0.7 percent.

Rio Tinto reported a 2 percent increase each in production and shipment of iron ore in 2018, with shipments in line with full-year guidance. The miner also said it expects to ship between 338 million and 350 million tonnes of iron ore in 2019.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank are higher in a range of 0.4 percent to 0.7 percent.

In the tech sector, shares of AfterPay Touch Group are rising more than 11 percent after the company announced a 240 percent jump in its first-half global underlying sales.

Language tech company Appen is rising more than 4 percent and WiseTech Global is adding 0.6 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly higher despite crude oil prices declining overnight. Oil Search is rising almost 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.3 percent, while Santos is declining 0.2 percent.

Gold miners are weak after gold prices edged lower. Evolution Mining is down 0.2 percent and Newcrest Mining is declining 0.4 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7189, up from $0.7158 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is advancing, tracking a weaker yen and the overnight gains on Wall Street.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 248.84 points or 1.22 to 20,651.11, after rising to a high of 20,660.50 earlier.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Mitsubishi Electric is rising more than 2 percent, while Canon and Panasonic are advancing almost 1 percent each, and Sony is rising 0.4 percent.

In the tech sector, Tokyo Electron is gaining almost 4 percent and Advantest is higher by more than 1 percent.

Among the major automakers, Toyota is adding 0.5 percent and Honda is up 0.3 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is rising 0.5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up 0.4 percent each.

In the oil space, Japan Petroleum is advancing almost 2 percent and Inpex is higher by 0.7 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Chiyoda is gaining almost 12 percent, while Mitsui E&S and JGC Corp. are rising more than 5 percent each. Daiichi Sankyo is higher by more than 4 percent.

On the flip side, Sumco Corp., Daikin Industries and Minebea Mitsumi are all losing more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that overall consumer prices in Japan were up 0.3 percent on year in December. That was in line with expectations and down from 0.8 percent in November.

Core consumer prices - which exclude volatile prices of food - were up an annual 0.7 percent. That was shy of expectations for 0.8 percent and down from 0.9 percent in the previous month.

Japan also will see final November numbers for industrial production today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 109 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong are also higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Thursday after a report from the Wall Street Journal said the U.S. is considering lifting tariffs on Chinese goods in an effort to calm markets and give Beijing an incentive to make deeper concessions. A negative reaction to quarterly results from Morgan Stanley weighed on the markets early in the session.

The Dow advanced 162.94 points or 0.7 percent to 24,370.10, the Nasdaq rose 49.77 points or 0.7 percent to 7,084.46 and the S&P 500 climbed 19.86 points or 0.8 percent to 2,635.96.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on Thursday. While the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices rebounded after early weakness, but still settled lower on Thursday, amid renewed concerns about excess supply and likely fall in near term energy demand. WTI crude for February declined $0.24 or 0.5 percent to close at $52.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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