Asia stocks eye muted open on trade wait-and-see

Pedestrians walk pass past an electronic stock board outside a securities firm in Tokyo,. (Bloomberg pic)

SYDNEY: Asian stocks were poised for a relatively muted start to trading Thursday as investors await developments from high-level trade talks between the US and China and data on the Chinese economy.

US equities earlier nudged higher and Treasuries fell, while the dollar rose.

Futures pointed to a flat open for share indexes in Tokyo, while contracts in Hong Kong and Australia dipped. Mainland Chinese equities will be closely watched after the Shanghai Composite Index extended its rally from January lows to 10%.

The S&P 500 Index came off its highs Wednesday after Senator Marco Rubio announced a bill to tax buybacks on equal footing with dividends.

The dollar gained and Treasuries edged lower as data showed US inflation remained contained.

President Donald Trump has said he’s open to extending a March 1 deadline to raise tariffs on Chinese products if the two sides are near an agreement, helping to buoy investor appetite for stocks this week.

He told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that talks to resolve the US trade war with China are making good progress.

US inflation numbers bolstered the Federal Reserve’s decision to be patient on raising interest rates and with many major central banks talking cautiously about global growth, investor attention is firmly focused on the outlook for global trade.

Elsewhere, oil continued its rebound from a two-week low, after Saudi Arabia pledged to deepen output cuts, and held most of those gains even after US crude stockpiles came in larger than anticipated. Energy shares led gains on the S&P 500.