Asia Pacific stocks trade higher as U.S. and China discuss phase one trade deal; airline stocks jump

Stocks in Asia Pacific were higher in Tuesday afternoon trade after the S&P 500 touched another record high overnight on Wall Street.

Stocks in Japan led gains among the region’s major markets, with the Nikkei 225 jumping 1.76% while the Topix index advanced 1.51%.

South Korea’s Kospi also rose 1.29%.

Mainland Chinese stocks, on the other hand, were mixed by the afternoon. The Shanghai composite fell into negative territory as it shed 0.19% while the Shenzhen component gained 0.158%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index edged about 0.5% lower.

Shares in Australia also edged higher, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 0.31%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index gained 0.15%.

Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had a call with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He Monday evening stateside to “discuss implementation of the historic Phase One Agreement between the United States and China,” according to a statement released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.  The conversation was also confirmed by Chinese state media agency Xinhua.

According to the USTR: “Both sides see progress and are committed to taking the steps necessary to ensure the success of the agreement.”

Airline shares jump on virus treatment hopes

Shares of airlines in Asia Pacific rose in Tuesday trade. In Hong Kong, shares of China Eastern Airlines jumped 4.67% while China Southern Airlines surged 5.45%. Similar gains were seen in Japan, where ANA Holdings soared 7.14%. Meanwhile in Singapore, Singapore Airlines also gained 4.35%.

The moves upward in airline stocks followed their counterparts stateside such as United Airlines on Monday, which came on the back of positive coronavirus developments.

The Food and Drug Administration also approved the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment for coronavirus patients, though scientists and public health officials have raised doubts over its effectiveness as a treatment. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is also reportedly considering fast-tracking an experimental vaccine from the U.K.

Overnight stateside, the S&P 500 rose 1% to 3,431.28 and hit an all-time high, with Monday also marking the index’s first-ever close above 3,400. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 378.13 points, or 1.4%, to end its trading day at 28,308.46. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.6% to close at 11,379.72 and also reached a record.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 93.153 after touching an earlier high of 93.347.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.96 per dollar after seeing levels below 105.5 against the greenback last week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7173 following a decline yesterday from levels around $0.72.

Oil prices were mixed in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up about 0.2% at $45.22 per barrel. U.S. crude futures shed 0.19% to $42.54 per barrel.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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