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Asian Shares Steady On Trade Optimism


Asian stocks recovered from early weakness to end Thursday's trading mixed following a Reuters report that the United States and China are outlining agreements on the stickiest trade issues. Dovish signals from the U.S. Federal Reserve also lent some support.

Chinese shares gave up early gains to end modestly lower after a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country would not use the yuan's exchange rate as a bargaining chip to deal with the trade dispute.

Investors also bet that Beijing will not resort to aggressive interest rate cuts to spur the slowing economy, despite stronger yuan and cooling inflation.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 9.42 points or 0.3 percent to 2,751.80, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 115.87 points or 0.4 percent to 28,629.92.

Japanese shares rose for a fourth consecutive session as dovish signals from the Fed as well as optimism over U.S.-China trade talks helped investors shrug off weak manufacturing data.

Japan's manufacturing sector slipped into contraction in February, the latest survey from Nikkei revealed with a 32-month low manufacturing PMI score of 48.5. That's down from 50.3 in January.

The Nikkei 225 Index fluctuated before ending up 32.74 points or 0.2 percent at 21,464.23. The broader Topix closed marginally higher at 1,613.50.

China-related companies gained ground, with Yaskawa Electric rising 2.2 percent. Santen Pharmaceutical rose over 5 percent on share buyback news.

Australian markets fluctuated before ending near their day's highs as conglomerate Wesfarmers posted a record first-half profit, offsetting losses in the mining sector.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 42.70 points or 0.7 percent to 6,139.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 38.80 points or 0.6 percent at 6,214.60.

Wesfarmers soared 6.9 percent after announcing a special dividend. Origin Energy and Oil Search rose 1-2 percent as oil prices hovered near 2019 highs.

Australia's flag carrier Qantas Airways advanced 1.9 percent after announcing a new A$305 million share buyback. Nine Entertainment jumped 7.2 percent after posting a steady half-year profit result.

Meanwhile, a stronger Aussie dollar on the back of upbeat jobs data weighed on the mining sector, with mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ending down less than half a percent each. Gold miners Evolution, Northern Star Resources and St Barbara plummeted 3-8 percent.

The jobless rate in Australia stood at a seasonally adjusted 5.0 percent in January, unchanged and in line with expectations. The economy added 31,900 jobs last month, blowing away forecasts for an increase of 15,000 jobs. The jump followed an increase of 16,900 jobs in December.

Seoul stocks recouped initial losses to end roughly flat on hopes for a trade deal between the United States and China.

New Zealand shares rose notably, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index climbing 51.37 points or 0.6 percent to 9,300.81. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare shares jumped 6.8 percent after it settled a patent dispute with U.S.-based ResMed.

U.S. stocks edged modestly higher overnight as minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting indicated a patient approach to raising interest rates.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both rose around 0.2 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite inched up marginally.

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