• Asian markets cautiously higher ahead of Xi-Trump summit

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    HONG KONG: Asia’s markets mostly rose Wednesday but investors moved nervously ahead of a summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump this week.

    The two-day gathering in Florida comes after the US tycoon has hit out at Beijing’s trade policies and labelled it a currency manipulator, fanning fears of a trade war between the world’s top two economies.

    There are also geopolitical concerns linked to North Korea’s growing nuclear programme, with Trump warning he would be prepared to sideline Beijing in dealing with the rogue state.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un raised tensions Wednesday by firing another ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, the latest in a series of launches in recent months.

    Also in focus is the release of US jobs figures Friday, which will provide a fresh snapshot of the state of the world’s top economy, as well as minutes from the Federal Reserve’s March policy meeting. A private US jobs reading is due later Wednesday.

    “It seems most folks are waiting on the meeting between Presidents Xi and Trump. And of course, non-farm payrolls,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

    Hong Kong jumped 0.6 percent while Shanghai rallied 1.5 percent as investors welcomed a decision to set up a new economic development zone near Beijing.

    The news boosted property and construction stocks as it sparked a frenzy among out-of-town home buyers.

    The Xiongan New Area—a patch of apartments and wetlands in Hebei province—has less than one percent of Beijing’s economic output, but was on Saturday unveiled as the future location of a special economic zone similar to those established in Shenzhen and Shanghai.

    Home prices in one area surged fivefold, financial magazine Caixin reported, causing officials to put a freeze on property sales.

    Tokyo added 0.3 percent, while Sydney rose by a similar amount. Seoul was flat but Taipei and Manila rallied more than one percent.

    The gains followed a positive lead from Wall Street after the US Commerce Department said the trade deficit narrowed in February by the most in six months.

    But traders have taken a step back from the four-month rally that greeted Trump’s November election victory as they grow increasingly concerned about his ability to push through promised tax cuts and spending that would fire the economy.

    In early European trade London rose 0.3 percent, Frankfurt was flat and Paris added 0.1 percent.

    AFP

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