Pedestrians walk past a stocks display panel showing activity of the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong on September 4, 2019. Hong Kong's stock market soared on September 4 after local media reported the city's embattled leader was planning to fully withdraw a loathed extradition bill, one of the main demands of pro-democracy protesters. Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace

Asian equities and currencies rallied Thursday, building on the previous day’s advance as investors were cheered by a number of positive developments on trade, Hong Kong and Europe.

Markets were already on an upward trajectory after the leader of Hong Kong on Wednesday withdrew a controversial extradition bill that had sparked months of sometimes violent protests in the financial hub.

But the good news kept coming as the day wore on, with news that Italy had formed a new moderate, pro-European government, while British MPs moved closer to passing a law preventing a no-deal Brexit.

Then on Thursday morning, China announced it would resume trade talks with the United States in Washington next month.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by phone Thursday morning, the commerce ministry statement said, and agreed to “work together and take practical actions to create favorable conditions for consultations”.

The announcement provided a small sign of progress in the long-running row that has dragged on the global economy and stock markets.

Asian equities were all in positive territory, tracking a healthy lead from Wall Street, where the S&P 500 moved to within touching distance of a new record high.

Hong Kong added 0.4% in the morning, having soared almost 4% Wednesday on the back of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s shock decision to withdraw the bill.

Tokyo went into the break more than 2% higher and Shanghai jumped 1.6%, with Sydney 1% up.

Seoul gained 1.1%, Singapore 0.5% and Taipei and Wellington 0.9% apiece. Manila and Jakarta were also well in positive territory.

Sterling extends gains

Adding to the positive vibe were comments from China’s cabinet flagging a cut in the amount of cash banks must keep in reserve, a move aimed at releasing more cash into the stuttering economy.

“A full cut to banks’ reserve ratio is needed to make sure of effective financial support to economic growth, as the global economy slows and domestic consumption and investment face headwinds,” said Wen Bin, at China Minsheng Banking Corp.

On currency markets, high-yielding, riskier assets were up across the board against the dollar, led by the Australian dollar and South Korean won.

The Chinese yuan, which hit 11-year lows earlier in the week, was also well up.

The sterling continued its recovery, having slumped to its weakest level since 1985 except for a 2016 “flash crash.”

The unit has enjoyed buying as lawmakers in Westminster push through legislation to avert crashing out of the EU on October 31, delivering an embarrassing blow to new Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

On Wednesday, they also blocked his attempt to call a general election until their bill had become law. Economists have warned that a no-deal Brexit could hammer the British economy.

The euro was also supported by developments in Italy, where the new coalition will be sworn in Thursday, drawing a line under a months-long crisis sparked by the far right.

Oil prices built on Wednesday’s gains of more than 4% for both contracts, which came in response to the positive stories, as well as fresh US sanctions on Iran and Russia’s promise to stick to a deal with OPEC to cut output.

However, while the mood on trading floors is positive, Stephen Innes, Asia-Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader, sounded a note of caution.

“While a drop in geopolitical risk premium comes as a welcome relief, with the omnipresent trade war clouds looming ominously over the market … the air remains thick with caution.”

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 2.3% at 21,131.08 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.4% at 26,635.36

Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.6% at 3,003.51

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2244 from $1.2241 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.09 pence from 90.13 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1030 from $1.1033

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.68 yen from 106.41 yen

West Texas Intermediate: UP 23 cents at $56.49 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 28 cents at $60.98 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.9% at 26,355.47 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6% at 7,311.26 (close)

 – AFP

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