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Trade talks, virus treatment help Asian markets post fresh gains

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Asian markets mostly rose Tuesday with investors taking reassurance from news that China and the US had agreed to press on with their trade pact, while hopes for a virus treatment provided extra support.

The gains followed yet another record day on Wall Street as cases appear to be slowing in the United States, but as Europe sees a worrying surge and Hong Kong researchers identified what they said was the first confirmed case of reinfection.

China and the US provided dealers with some much-needed cheer after announcing top representatives had held phone talks on their trade agreement signed in January.

There had been concerns about the future of the deal as the superpowers' relationship grows increasingly fraught over various issues including Hong Kong, the virus, Huawei and TikTok. 

But on Tuesday, the commerce ministry said Vice Premier Liu He spoke to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and both sides "agreed to create conditions and atmosphere to continue to push forward the implementation of the phase-one of the China-US economic and trade agreement".

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The US side added in a separate statement that the two had discussed steps China had agreed to address in the agreement, including intellectual property and forced technology transfer.

"The parties also discussed the significant increases in purchases of US products by China as well as future actions needed to implement the agreement. Both sides see progress and are committed to taking the steps necessary to ensure the success of the agreement," it added.

While there was an expectation the deal would remain intact, the news will take away one key matter of concern for investors.

Tokyo ended the morning 1.7 percent higher while Shanghai added 0.3 percent and Sydney gained 0.7 percent.

Seoul, Singapore and Taipei were also more than one percent higher, with Jakarta and Wellington also well up.

Hong Kong, however, dipped slightly after rallying nearly three percent over the previous two sessions.

Markets were already buoyant on growing optimism that a vaccine for the coronavirus is close, with Donald Trump said to be considering fast-tracking an experimental treatment from Britain that could be ready for use by November.

That followed news that the US Food and Drug Administration is looking to expand access to a virus treatment involving blood plasma from recovered patients.

"A vaccine and possible treatment raise hope that in the not-too-distant future, symptoms of COVID-19 infections may become relatively mild, like a cough and runny nose caused by influenza, and possibly the vaccine could even provide a cure," said Stephen Innes at AxiCorp.

"But in either outcome, the COVID-19 flu will no longer pose a significant health risk, and the economy could return to standard quicker. Indeed, the ultimate one-stop recession plugger could be but a trip to your local clinic."

Attention is on this week's virtual meeting of central bankers, with the key event being a speech by Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell, hoping he provides an update on the world's top economy and some forward guidance on his plans for monetary policy.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.7 percent at 23,378.47 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 25,513.84

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,396.30

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1801 from $1.1790 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.89 yen from 105.98 yen 

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3099 from $1.3061

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.09 pence from 90.21 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $42.57 per barrel 

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.2 percent at $45.22 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 1.4 percent at 28,308.46 points (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 1.7 percent at 6,104.73 points (close) 

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