Asian stocks mixed on US-China fears at start of quiet week

SINGAPORE — Asian markets were mixed Monday amid speculation over next steps in the dispute between the U.S. and China over technology development and trade following meetings in Washington last week.

Markets in mainland China and Taiwan are closed for the week for Lunar New Year celebrations. South Korean markets were closed for a holiday.

American and Chinese negotiators ended two days of talks in Washington last week without word of a deal, though those involved — including U.S. President Donald Trump — were optimistic about the road ahead.

Trump said he plans to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to sort out contentious issues. "I think when Xi and I meet, every point will be agreed to," Trump said, without specifying a date or location. A tariffs cease-fire between the U.S. and China is set to end on March 2, and the U.S. is expected to raise import taxes from 10 percent to 25 percent for $200 billion in Chinese goods.

"There is rising optimism on the trade talks between the U.S. and China, although no details have been nailed down. The upside is limited as President Trump also mentioned that if the talks are not successful a new round of tariffs is imminent," Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a commentary.

KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong's Hang Seng index edged 0.1 percent higher to 27,951.27. Japan's Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.5 percent to 20,893.95 and Australia's S&P ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent to 5,884.60. New Zealand's NZX index shed 0.2 percent to 9,747.49. Shares fell in Singapore and the Philippines.

WALL STREET: A strong jobs report showing that U.S. employers added 304,000 jobs in January, far more than what analysts were expecting, lifted most major indexes on Friday. But Amazon's disappointing revenue outlook caused some traders to steer on the side of caution. The broad S&P 500 index rose added 0.1 percent to 2,706.53 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 percent to 25,063.89. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite lost 0.2 percent to 7,263.87. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was 0.2 percent higher at 1,502.05.

CHINESE DATA: A private survey released on Sunday suggested that China's services activity slowed in January. The Caixin services purchasing managers' index fell to 53.6 for the month, down from 53.9 in December, likely due to domestic conditions. Numbers over 50 indicate expansion on the index's 100-point scale. But new export sales grew at the fastest pace in more than a year, in a nod to an easing trade standoff between the U.S. and China.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 2 cents to $55.24 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It added $1.47 to settle at $55.26 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 1 cent to $62.74 per barrel. The contract gained $1.91 to $62.75 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 109.62 yen from 109.50 yen late Friday. The euro rose to $1.1450 from $1.1447.

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