Asian markets boosted by fresh trade hopes, ECB easing

AFP, Hong Kong :
Equities rose in Asian trade Friday after the European Central Bank unveiled a fresh round of economic stimulus and another interest rate cut while a report said the US was considering a short-term trade agreement with China.
Global markets have been buoyed this week by a growing sense that central banks are on the brink of easing monetary policy to support growth, and on Thursday the ECB did not disappoint.
It said it would restart its bond-buying quantitative easing programme to boost liquidity, provide support for struggling banks and reduce borrowing costs deeper into negative territory in a bid to kickstart lending. The bank said it would not lift rates until inflation moved towards its goal of just under 2.0 percent over the medium term.
The announcement, while slightly short of expectations, was broadly cheered by markets, sending equities in Europe and New York higher.
“In the end, it wasn’t a big bazooka, but ECB President Mario Draghi did his level best trying to convince investors that monetary policy will remain extremely accommodative for some considerable time to come,” said Gavin Friend, a senior market strategist at National Australia Bank.
The euro initially plunged below $1.10 on the news Thursday before bouncing back and in Asia it was standing its ground. The news also provided further hope that the Federal Reserve would cut rates at its meeting next week, even though data showed a jump in US inflation last month.
Investors were given an extra fillip by a Bloomberg News report that US officials were considering an interim trade deal with China that could freeze or cancel some tariffs if Beijing agrees to commitments on intellectual property and agricultural purchases.
The report, citing five unnamed sources, comes as tensions between the two sides show signs of easing ahead of high-level talks in Washington next month.
China has said it would remove some US goods from its tariffs list – with big-ticket items including pork and soybeans also now being considered -while Trump announced a delay to some levies on Chinese imports.
“A lot of people are talking about, and I see a lot of analysts are saying: an interim deal, meaning we’ll do pieces of it, the easy ones first,” Bloomberg quoted Donald Trump as saying Thursday.
“But there’s no easy or hard. There’s a deal or there’s not a deal. But it’s something we would consider.”
Also, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was “cautiously optimistic” about an agreement being reached, telling CNBC “we want to make meaningful progress”.
In early trade, Hong Kong rose 0.3 percent while Tokyo went into the break 0.9 percent higher, with Sydney and Singapore both 0.1 percent higher. Manila and Jakarta also rose but Wellington struggled.
Shanghai, Seoul and Taipei were closed for holidays.
On oil markets, both main contracts extended losses after the
International Energy Agency said growth in global demand was expected to remain subdued citing the trade standoff and Brexit.