By Tom Westbrook
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian shares hit a 7-month high, China’s yuan jumped and safe-harbour assets slipped on Tuesday, amid signs of goodwill between China and the United States, as the world’s two biggest economies prepared to sign a truce in their trade war.
The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday said China should no longer be designated a currency manipulator – a label it applied as the yuan dropped in August.
China, meanwhile, allowed the tightly managed currency to climb to its highest point since July, after fixing the yuan’s trading-band midpoint at its firmest in more than five months.
The yuan sat 0.4% firmer at 6.8677 per dollar by mid session.
The moves come as a Chinese delegation arrived in Washington ahead of Wednesday’s signing of the Phase 1 trade agreement, seen as calming a dispute that has upended the world economy.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan hit its highest since June in morning trade, driving world stocks to a record high.
Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> added 0.7% and hit its highest point in a month. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng <.HSI> rose to its highest since May and Shanghai blue chips scaled heights not touched since January 2018 <.CSI300>, though both later pared gains.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 <.AXJO> rose 0.7% to a record intraday high. Gold fell and the safe-harbour Japanese yen <JPY=> dropped to a seven-month low.
“There have been a number of false starts,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.
“The fact that this is really coming to the moment when the rubber hits the road is the most tangible evidence of traction in starting to resolve issues, that’s what’s driving optimism.”
Chinese economic data showing rising exports and imports in December also put a floor under gains.
Overnight Wall Street logged record closing highs, helped by sharp rises in technology stocks as investors bet firms such as Facebook Inc <FB.O>, Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> and Apple Inc <AAPL.O> might have the most to gain from revived global growth.
The S&P 500 <.SPX> rose 0.7% to a record closing high, while the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 1% and also closed at a record peak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 0.29%.
With the text of the Sino-U.S. deal yet to be finalised, some fretted the gains could leave stocks exposed should anything go awry, with modest volumes in equity markets hinting at caution.
“The market appears to be fully pricing a signed agreement,” said CMC Markets’ chief strategist in Sydney, Michael McCarthy.
“It’s buy the rumour, sell the fact… Even a delay could see an extremely negative reaction,” he said.
United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Fox Business late on Monday that the Chinese translation of the deal’s text was almost done.
“We’re going to make it public on Wednesday before the signing,” he said.
YEN, GOLD SLIP
In tandem with the rally, safe-harbour assets slid lower on Tuesday. Gold extended Monday’s fall to trade 0.6% weaker at $1538.76 per ounce.
Oil nursed losses and yields on benchmark U.S. Treasuries rose as prices fell. Brent Crude <LCOc1> was steady around $64.37 per barrel. Ten-year Treasury note yields <US10YT=RR> rose to 1.8599% compared with the U.S. close of 1.848%.
In currency markets, the yen weakened past the 110 yen-per-dollar mark while the yuan’s strength helped lift trade-exposed currencies across Asia.
Besides the trade deal, investors are also looking to U.S. inflation data due later on Tuesday and the beginning of the fourth-quarter U.S. company results season.
Big banks JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N>, Citigroup Inc <C.N> and Wells Fargo & Co <WFC.N> are due to report earnings before market open on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Christopher Cushing)