An electronic board displaying the Tokyo stock index at a securities office in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: EPA/KIMIMASA MAYAMA
An electronic board displaying the Tokyo stock index at a securities office in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: EPA/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

Shanghai — Asian shares rose to seven-month highs on Wednesday as investors lapped up signs of progress in US-China trade talks and brisk economic data, while oil approached the key $70 per barrel mark.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.5% at about 03.10 GMT, after earlier touching its highest level since late August.

The index has risen nearly 3% since Thursday following reports of progress in trade talks between the US and China, as well as reassuring factory activity data from China and the U.S.

The run of gains for stock markets worldwide has also pushed MSCI’s key gauge of global equities to a six-month high. The global index was up 0.2% on Wednesday morning.

Hopes for a deal to end the trade war between the world’s two largest economies were fanned by fresh comments from White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow that Washington expects “to make more headway” in talks this week.

Even so, analysts struggled to point to a clear catalyst for the extended rally in equities.

“I think there’s a tendency for markets at times to just want to be positive unless you hit them repeatedly, and not just with bad news, but with new bad news,” said Rob Carnell, chief economist and head of Asia-Pacific research at ING in Singapore.

“There’s been an awful lot of bad news priced in. So perhaps the absence of new negatives are enough to allow for a small sense of positivity to creep in,” he said.

Australian shares were up 0.5% and Japan’s Nikkei stock index added 0.8%. Chinese blue-chips were flat, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 0.7%.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3% to 26,179.13 points, the S&P 500 was flat and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.25% to 7,848.69.

“After such a strong rise it is no surprise that the risk rally stalled a little,” said Greg McKenna, strategist at McKenna Macro, in a morning note to clients.

But after a brief consolidation in risk sentiment, US Treasury yields were once again ticking higher.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes yielded 2.5027%, up from a US close of 2.479% on Tuesday, and the two-year yield touched 2.3240% compared with a US close of 2.308%.

Oil prices also stood near multi-month highs amid concerns about supply, with Brent crude rising as much as 0.72% to $69.87 per barrel, its highest since November and near the psychologically important level of $70 per barrel.

It was last up 0.55% at $69.75. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 0.42% to $62.84 per barrel.

News that the US is considering more sanctions against Iran, the fourth-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), and the halting of production at a crude terminal in Venezuela threatened to squeeze supply and pushed oil prices up on Tuesday.

In currency markets, the pound was about 0.1% higher at $1.3139, having recovered its footing after British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would seek another delay to Brexit to work out an EU divorce deal with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The dollar strengthened 0.15% against the yen to 111.48 and the euro added 0.17% to $1.1221.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, eased 0.16% to 97.206.

Cryptocurrency bitcoin, which surged 18.7% on Tuesday following a major order by an anonymous buyer, extended its gains by another 2.6% to $5,027.10.

Gold was flat, with spot gold trading at $1,292.67/oz.