Asian Shares Mostly Higher On Trade Optimism

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Asian stocks rose broadly on Wednesday, with encouraging U.S. earnings and hopes for a U.S.-China trade deal boosting sentiment.

China's Shanghai Composite index rose 0.20 percent to 2,761.22 after U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters the U.S.-China trade talks are "going very well" and added that an early March deadline to reach a deal could be postponed.

Trump claimed China is "trying to move fast" so that an increase in tariffs on Chinese goods currently set to take effect does not happen.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose over 1 percent to finish at 28,514.05.

Japanese shares hit fresh nine-week high, with automakers and heavyweight SoftBank Group pacing the gainers despite the release of weak exports data.

Exports in Japan fell the most in more than two years in January as machinery goods orders fell sharply, a government report showed.

The Nikkei average rose 128.84 points or 0.60 percent to 21,431.49, the highest closing level since Dec. 17. The broader Topix index closed 0.43 percent higher at 1,613.47.

Honda, Mazda Motor and Toyota Motor rose about 1 percent while SoftBank shares surged 3.6 percent.

Australian markets edged lower even as resource- related stocks gained ground after Fortescue's half-year profit exceeded expectations.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slid 10.40 points or 0.17 percent to 6,096.50 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 8.40 points or 0.14 percent at 6,175.80.

Supermarket chain Woolworths Group slumped 5.2 percent after it warned of subdued consumer demand.

Likewise, casino operator Crown Resorts tumbled 5.3 percent and fast food giant Domino's Pizza Enterprise lost over 3 percent after posting disappointing half-year profits.

Fortescue Metals Group jumped 5.4 percent on strong half-year earnings, a surprise special dividend and a positive outlook. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended up around 3 percent.

Gold miners Newcrest and Northern Star climbed 2-4 percent after gold prices hit 10-month highs on worries about a global economic slowdown.

Shares of Stockland Corp dropped 2.4 percent after the property development company reported a 56 percent fall in its half-year net profit and warned of weaker full-year results.

In economic releases, wage prices in Australia were up a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2018, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

That was shy of expectations for an increase of 0.6 percent, which would have been unchanged. On a yearly basis, wage prices advanced 2.3 percent - unchanged and matching forecasts.

Seoul stocks ended higher on hopes for a possible U.S.-China trade deal. The benchmark Kospi climbed 24.13 points or 1.09 percent to 2,229.76, with large-cap stocks such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix leading the surge. .

New Zealand shares eked out modest gains, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 ending up 25.18 points or 0.27 percent at 9,249.44. Index heavyweight A2 Milk Company soared as much as 10.5 percent after it reported a 55 percent jump in half-year profit.

Fletcher Building lost 5.7 percent despite the company reporting a turnaround to profit in the first half and resuming its interim dividend payment.

U.S. stocks finished slightly higher overnight, with Walmart earnings, positive housing data and continued optimism over U.S.-China trade talks helping underpin investor sentiment as traders returned to their desks after a long holiday weekend.

The Dow inched up marginally while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 rose around 0.2 percent.