James Hyerczyk
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The major Asia Pacific stock indexes finished mostly higher on Friday following days of two-sided trading tied to the ever-changing narrative over a U.S.-China trade deal. If you’re keeping score, the negative days were primarily driven by comments from “unnamed sources”, “people close to negotiations” and “a source close to the Trump administration.” The positive days were fueled by remarks from U.S. and China with real names. Imagine that.

On Friday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index settled at 23112.88, up 74.30 or +0.32%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index is trading 26541.36, up 74.48 or +0.28% and South Korea’s KOSPI Index finished at 2101.96, up 5.36 or +0.26%.

China’s Shanghai Index settled at 2885.29, down 18.35 or -0.63% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index closed at 6709.80, up 36.90 or +0.55%.

Positive Developments Outweigh Negative Headlines

Despite Friday’s better performance, gains are being capped by persistent worries over the status of trade negotiations between China and the United States.

Over the past 48 hours, stocks have been subject to bearish headlines saying trade talks have hit a snag over the rollback of tariffs. Some have said the trade deal will be delayed until early 2020. Others are worried that U.S. legislation on Hong Kong will undermine trade talks between the world’s two largest economies.

There have been positive developments too. China said it was willing to work with the United States to resolve core trade concerns. Additionally, The Wall Street Journal reported that China has invited top U.S. trade negotiators for a new round of face-to-face talks in Beijing.


Investors Looking for Confidence Boost

“I think the phase one agreement is important. One, because it would put a trade truce between China and the United States. Two, it’d build a little confidence and certainty in the trading system,” Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday.

“It is a step in the right direction if the deal can get done,” Brilliant said.

Despite The Noise, Deal May Be Close

Last week ended on a positive note with White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow saying the United States and China are getting close to a trade agreement.

“We’re getting close,” he told an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “The mood music is pretty good, and that has not always been so in these things.”

“It’s not done yet, but there has been very good progress and the talks have been very constructive,” Kudlow told the event.

On Thursday, the South China Morning Post said both countries are on the “doorstep” of reaching a deal, citing a source close to the Trump administration.

Last week, a deal was “close”. This week it’s on the “doorstep” of being reached. It seems everything in between was just a bunch of “noise”.

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