Asian markets mostly rose Thursday, with Hong Kong and Shanghai rallying on hopes for an easing of the China-US trade war, while energy firms also enjoyed a much-needed bounce as oil prices stabilised. The pound also held up after British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly won support for her Brexit deal from cabinet members, though Apple suppliers faced renewed selling. Fears about the trade war, rising Federal Reserve interest rates, tensions within the European Union and slowing growth in most economies have forced stocks south for the past few months. But after another battering for much of this week — this time from the oil sector — traders were given some hope by reports that China had submitted a series of trade concessions to the Trump administration. Bloomberg said officials had suggested the measures as they try to reach a deal ahead of a G20 summit this month, where Donald Trump is expected meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. The report said the offers were short of the major reforms being sought by the White House but cited an unnamed source as saying talks were ongoing and constructive. Earlier this week, Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said both sides were “having communications at all levels” on trade. However, with both sides digging their heels in, expectations for a breakthrough are low. “On the surface (the latest report is) a positive sign,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA. “However, in this instance I suspect equity traders will be more focused on the… ‘long road that lies ahead’ as we can only assume it will be filled with numerous potholes. As such we could expect risk sentiment to continue shading to the dark side of the equation.” Deal or no deal? Still, Hong Kong rose 1.2 percent in afternoon Thursday, while Shanghai ended up 1.4 percent. Seoul added one percent, Singapore gained 0.4 percent and Sydney rose 0.1 percent, with Taipei, Mumbai, Manila and Jakarta also up. However, Tokyo ended slightly lower, with big losses in Apple-linked firms after another key supplier lowered its earnings forecasts, fuelling worries about demand for the US titan’s iPhones. Japan Display collapsed 9.5 percent, Alps Electric lost 1.4 percent and Murata Manufacturing slipped one percent, while TDK slumped 3.1 percent. The recent slump in energy stocks came to a halt after an uptick in crude prices Wednesday, which extended into Asia, on speculation OPEC will cut output more than recently stated. The cartel and kingpin Saudi Arabia at the weekend flagged a tightening of the taps to support the market after oil lost more than a fifth of its value over the past six weeks. The commodity has been rocked, though, by Trump’s call for much lower prices as well as a stronger US dollar against emerging market units and soft Chinese growth. However, observers do not expect a rebound any time soon. “The toxic elixir of weakening global demand and oversupply suggests upticks (in oil prices) will run into substantial selling as numerous bearish factors are weighing on sentiment,” Innes warned. On currency markets, the pound extended gains after May’s success in pushing her Brexit plan through cabinet but analysts warned she faced a tough time getting it through parliament next month. With many of her ministers and plenty of backbenchers — as well as the opposition — against the deal, there are doubts she has the muscle to get her way, leaving an uncertain future for the British economy and the pound. “We still can’t say with any confidence whether this deal, no deal, or indeed a second referendum, is now the most probable outcome to this ongoing saga,” said Ray Attrill, head of forex strategy at National Australia Bank. Published in Daily Times, November 16th 2018.