Asian Shares Close Higher as Geopolitical Tension Eases

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By Investors Hub

Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Friday as geopolitical tensions eased and investors breathed a sigh of relief that U.S. trade tariffs were less severe than originally feared.

Geopolitical tensions eased after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to halt nuclear and missile tests and expressed his desire to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Separately, the White House slapped import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent for aluminum but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies, backtracking from an earlier “no-exceptions” stance.

China’s Shanghai Composite index climbed 19.23 points or 0.6 percent to 3,307.64 after official data showed that Chinese inflation rose sharply to the highest level in more than four years in February, driven by a rebound in food prices. At the same time, producer price inflation slowed to a 15-month low. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 341.69 points or 1.1 percent to 30,996.21.

Consumer price inflation rose to 2.9 percent in February from 1.5 percent in January, the National Bureau of Statistics reported. This was the highest since November 2013. Producer price inflation slowed to 3.7 percent in February from 4.3 percent a month ago.

Japanese shares closed higher after the Bank of Japan kept rates unchanged and offered no clues on when it would wind down stimulus measures. Trade worries subsided and geopolitical tensions eased, helping buoy investor sentiment ahead of the U.S. February jobs report due later in the day.

The Nikkei 225 index ended 101.13 points or 0.5 percent higher at 21,469.20 after climbing as much as 2.4 percent earlier in the day. The broader Topix index closed 0.3 percent higher at 1,715.48. While exporters and insurers led the surge, steelmakers and defense-equipment makers ended broadly lower.

The average of household spending in Japan rose an annual 2.0 percent in January, the ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said today. That beat forecasts for a 0.8 percent decline.

Australian shares ended a range-bound session slightly higher as financials gained ground, offsetting losses in the material and energy sectors. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 20.30 points or 0.3 percent to 5,963.20, while the All Ordinaries index ended up 22.50 points or 0.4 percent at 6,069.10.

The big four banks rose between 0.3 percent and 0.9 percent, and mortgage insurance lender Genworth Mortgage Insurance Australia soared 7.7 percent to reach its highest level in over a week.

Weakness in Chinese steel and iron ore futures weighed on miners, with BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto losing 2-3 percent.

Oil stocks Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Origin Energy dropped 1-2 percent after crude oil prices fell to a three-week low overnight. Myer Holdings tumbled 4.4 percent after the struggling department store chain was removed from the ASX 200 index.

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