Asian stocks were largely positive on Thursday afternoon as the U.S. attempts to restart negotiations with China on trade.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 remained among the biggest gainers for the day, as it traded up by 0.94 percent in the afternoon, while South Korea’s Kospi pared some of its earlier gains to remain slightly up.
The moves in Tokyo came after Japan saw an 11 percent increase in core machinery orders for the month of July, largely rebounding from a decline in the prior month.
Some economists, however, warn that the number has to be “put into context.”
“This is a pretty good number, but I think it still doesn’t ease our worries about the export outlook for Japan,” said Izumi Devalier, head of Japan economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Speaking with CNBC’s Akiko Fujita, Devalier said the released number reflects domestic orders and not overseas demand, where it was “starting to see some weakness,” particularly from China.
“It looks like there could be some delays in import demand from China,” she said, adding that “it’s hard to say” if this was directly related to the ongoing tariff war between Washington and Beijing.
The Greater China markets fell slightly but remained broadly higher in the afternoon, as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index retraced some of its earlier gains but was still up by 1.46 percent. The index had earlier been in bear territory for much of the trading week.
Over on the mainland, the Shanghai composite was higher by 0.14 percent while the Shenzhen composite changed course after trading in positive territory earlier, sliding by 0.388 percent.
Down Under, the ASX 200 remained in negative territory as it traded 0.51 percent lower, with the utilities sector still down by 1.9 percent.
The moves in Australia came after employment numbers from jobs data for the month of August exceeded expectations at 44,000 as compared to the Reuters forecast of 15,000.
“The strong (labor) market is clearly a source of strength for household incomes and if sustained points to stronger wages growth,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital, in a note.
Oliver did, however, highlight that total labor market under utilization Down Under “remains very high” at 13.4 percent, in comparison to 7.4 percent stateside.
“Still high (labor) market (under utilization) points to the pick-up in wages growth being very gradual and it will be a while before (it is) consistent with the midpoint of the (Reserve Bank of Australia’s) target. As such we remain of the view that the (Reserve Bank of Australia) will leave interest rates on hold out to 2020 at least,” Oliver said.
The U.S. was in the early stages of proposing a new round of trade talks with China in the near future, sources familiar with the matter told CNBC on Wednesday. This came after Dow Jones reported earlier that senior U.S. officials led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had sent an invitation to Chinese officials requesting for a “ministerial-level delegation” to attend the trade discussions.
Following the news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 saw small gains for the trading day stateside while the Nasdaq Composite closed lower on the back of a fall in tech stocks.
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, was at 94.792 as of 12:19 p.m. HK/SIN, holding largely firm after declining in the previous session.
The Japanese yen continued to track weaker against the dollar at 111.40 yen, while the Australian dollar held on to its extended gains from the morning to trade at $0.7192, as of 12:20 p.m. HK/SIN.
Overnight in the oil markets, futures contracts rose on the back of a greater-than-expected fall in U.S. crude inventories, with impending sanctions by Washington on Tehran continuing to weigh on concerns over its potential impact on global crude supply.
In Asia afternoon trade, oil prices continued to see pullbacks after yesterday’s rally. The global benchmark Brent crude futures contract was lower by 0.58 percent at $79.28 per barrel, while U.S. crude futures fell further to 0.68 percent at $69.89 a barrel.