Global stocks traded cautiously higher again Wednesday, with markets in Asia touching fresh four-month highs, amid increasing signs of tangible progress in U.S.-China trade talks and a suggestion from President Donald Trump that negotiations could be extended if the two sides fail to reach an agreement by the first of next month.
With China’s trade delegation arriving in Washington this week, investors are growing increasingly optimistic that the year-long trade spat, which has resulted in collective tariffs worth nearly $500 billion and slowed global trade to its weakest levels since 2010, may finally be heading towards at worst a stalemate between the world’s two biggest economies.
President Trump’s comments to reporters late Tuesday in Washington also suggested that the midnight March 1 deadline was not a “magical” date and could be extended, adding that higher the tariffs it would trigger is something China “would not like to happen … so I think they’re trying to move fast so that doesn’t happen.”
China, for its part, has said through its state-controlled media that it wants an agreement between the two countries that will “inspire their people, heralding accelerated economic development.”
An editorial in today’s Global Times also noted that U.S. demands for structural reforms from Beijing “must stay in line with China-U.S. trade cooperation and coordinate with China’s reform and opening-up” and not “try to force Beijing to change its economic governance or even its development path.”
The conciliatory tone from both sides helped markets in Asia climb to the highest levels in more than four months, with the MSCI ex-Japan index rising 0.93% heading into the final hours of trading and Japan’s Nikkei 225 adding 0.6% to close at 21,431.49 points.
U.S. equity futures, however, look relatively muted in early European trading, with modestly declines of 32 points and 3.8 points respectively priced into both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 ahead of earnings from a handful of blue-chip stocks including CVS Health (CVS) , Garmin (GRMN) and Agilent Technologies (A) .
European stocks were modestly higher at the start of trading in Frankfurt, with the Stoxx 600 marked 0.21% to the upside with similar gains for benchmarks around the region. Britain’s FTSE 100 was also on the rise, adding 0.2% in early London trading even as the pound edged past 1.3040 against the U.S dollar ahead of yet another series of meetings between Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker later today in Brussels.
The session’s more important event, however, is set for 2 pm eastern time with the release of Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s January rate-setting meeting, which investors will study for clues as to the tone and direction of the central bank’s near-term policy path after Chairman Jerome Powell pledge to be “patient” while closely monitoring incoming data.
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, was marked 0.06% higher in early European trading at 96.595, but has slipped from its recent three-month highs as investors bet the Fed minutes will signal a softer stance on rates as the global economy slows and domestic data weakens.
Global oil prices were little-changed during the overnight session in Asia, and remained barely below recent three months highs as trading got underway in Europe, with investors citing the collective momentum of OPEC+ production cuts as offsetting record U.S. output and White House sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.
Brent crude contracts for April delivery, the global benchmark, were marked 21 cents lower from their Tuesday close in New York and changing hands at $66.24 while WTI contracts for the same month were seen 16 cents lower at $56.29 per barrel.