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Asian Shares Mixed Amid US-China Trade Uncertainty

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Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Thursday as investors reacted cautiously to conflicting reports on the progress in U.S.-China trade talks.

After news suggested U.S.-China trade talks could be cut short, the White House dismissed reports of an apparent collapse of its trade talks with Beijing.

Chinese shares gained ground on hopes that Beijing will roll out more stimulus measures to prop up growth. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 22.85 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,947.71, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index crept up 25.12 points or 0.1 percent, to 25,707.93.

Japanese shares inched higher after reports emerged that the Trump administration will soon issue licenses allowing some U.S companies to supply non-sensitive goods to Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies in a bid to resolve the trade war.

The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 95.60 points, or 0.5 percent, to 21,551.98, while the broader Topix ended marginally lower at 1,581.42.

Investors shrugged off official data showing that core machine orders in Japan fell a seasonally adjusted 2.4 percent month-on-month in August. That missed expectations for a flat reading following the 6.6 percent decline in July.

On a yearly basis, core machine orders plummeted 14.5 percent - again missing forecasts for a decline of 8.4 percent following the 0.3 percent gain in the previous month.

Sony shed 0.6 percent after saying its highly anticipated gaming console PlayStation 5 will go on sale in time for the next year's holiday season. Market heavyweight SoftBank gained 0.8 percent and Fast Retailing added 0.9 percent.

Australian markets fluctuated before finishing on a flat note. Banks as well as mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended narrowly mixed. Gold miner Resolute Mining tumbled 11.2 percent after it said a roaster at its Syama gold mine in Mali has been taken offline.

Pallets maker Brambles rallied 3.5 percent after a solid first-quarter update. Packaging company Orora soared 14 percent after it agreed to sell its Australasian fibre business to Japan's Nippon Paper Industries for $1.72 billion.

On the economic front, the total number of home loans in Australia was up a seasonally adjusted 3.2 percent sequentially in August, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 2.3 percent following the upwardly revised 4.3 percent increase in July.

Seoul stocks fell sharply as hopes faded for any significant progress in U.S.-China trade talks. The Kospi slid 18.10 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,028.15. Among the prominent decliners, SK Hynix, Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors lost 2-3 percent.

New Zealand shares followed their Aussie peers lower, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending down 54.13 points, or 0.5 percent, at 10,886.73.

U.S. stocks rose overnight after a report from Bloomberg News said China is still open to reaching a partial trade deal with the U.S. as long as Trump doesn't impose any more tariffs.

It was said that Beijing was ready to offer non-core concessions like purchases of agricultural products without giving in on major sticking points.

Traders shrugged off the minutes of the Federal Reserve's September monetary policy meeting, which revealed a few participants expressed concerns the markets expect more interest rate cuts than are appropriate.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.7 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.9 percent.

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