Stocks and the dollar were mixed Friday as traders weighed a range of issues including US debt-ceiling hopes, talks between Washington and Beijing and more signs of a slowing economy. Investors hoping the Federal Reserve will finally take a breather from its long-running campaign of interest rate hikes have been left feeling a little more confident this week after data showed US inflation on both a consumer and wholesale level continued to ease in April. Their hopes were given a further boost Thursday by news that jobless claims last week hit their highest since October 2021, suggesting the labour market was showing some slack. The Fed has long said it needed to see a softening in employment as well as a drop in inflation before it could consider ending its rate hike drive and look at a potential cut in borrowing costs. “US economic data… continued the theme of tentative signs of a softening labour market and room for optimism about the inflation outlook,” said National Australia Bank’s Taylor Nugent. “Caution on one week’s claims number is always well advised, but the incremental signal looks to be a more compelling trend higher.” Official data Friday meanwhile showed the UK economy had eked out growth over the first quarter, although output contracted in March as the country continues to be hit by sky-high inflation and strikes over pay. Focus across the Atlantic was also on some positive news out of Washington that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi met in Vienna this week, as the superpowers seek to temper tensions over a number of issues, particularly Taiwan. The eight hours of talks over Wednesday and Thursday also covered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and capped an unofficial pause in high-level contact since the United States shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon earlier in the year. Both sides described the face-to-face as “candid, substantive and constructive”. US-listed Chinese firms performed well in New York Thursday, with tech firms also helped by a strong earnings report from ecommerce giant JD.com. And the rally continued for the sector in Hong Kong, with JD.com up more than seven percent and rival Alibaba 2.4 percent higher. But the gains were unable to help the city’s Hang Seng Index maintain early gains, while there were also losses in Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta and Taipei. Still, Tokyo, Sydney, Wellington and Mumbai were all higher.