April 11, 2018 / 2:19 AM / 9 days ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks pare gains with next phase of U.S.-China trade saga in focus, euro buoyant

* MSCI Asia-Pacific index up 0.35 pct, Nikkei dips 0.1 pct

* Euro near 2-wk high, buoyant after ECB Nowotny’s policy comments

* Crude near 2014 highs amid Middle East tensions

By Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO, April 11 (Reuters) - Asian stocks rose modestly on Wednesday, paring earlier gains as optimism that trade ties between Washington and Beijing were on the mend gave way to questions about the next phase of the diplomatic tit-for-tat between the two countries.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.35 percent higher. It gained 1.2 percent the previous day after a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping was seen as striking a more conciliatory stance following a week of tit-for-tat tariff threats between Beijing and Washington.

The index’s surge lost some steam, however, with some Asian equity markets staggering, as the world’s two biggest economies are still seen needing to clear more hurdles before reaching any sort of settlement over trade issues.

“The United States and China are still at a phase in which they are attempting to probe the intentions of the other,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo.

“While China showed how far it can go, the markets won’t settle down until the two powers reach an actual agreement. The next focal point is how the United States responds.”

Australian stocks were down 0.25 percent and Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.1 percent.

South Korea’s KOSPI rose 0.25 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.5 percent and Shanghai added 0.2 percent.

The Dow advanced 1.8 percent, the S&P 500 rose 1.7 percent and Nasdaq added 2.1 percent overnight after Xi on Tuesday pledged to further open up the economy and promised to cut import tariffs on products including cars.

In currencies, the euro was a shade higher at $1.2358 and on its fourth session of gains.

The common currency was not far from a two-week high of $1.2378 scaled overnight after European Central Bank policymaker Ewald Nowotny told Reuters in an interview that its 2.55-trillion euro bond buying program would be wound down by the end of this year.

The euro has risen about 3 percent this year on expectations that the ECB would eventually normalise monetary policy and hike interest rates.

The dollar dipped 0.05 percent to 107.130 yen. The greenback had gained 0.4 percent overnight when an uptick in risk appetite weakened demand for its Japanese peer, often sought in times of market turmoil and political tensions.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was little changed at 89.600 after shedding 0.3 percent the previous day.

Oil prices remained elevated, after steep gains in the previous session, as the commodity markets eyed an escalation of Middle East tensions.

U.S. crude futures were little changed at $65.52 a barrel after surging more than 3 percent on Tuesday on the back of the surge in risk appetite in the broader markets.

Brent dipped 0.1 percent to $70.96 a barrel after jumping 3.5 percent on Tuesday, when it rose to $71.34, highest since December 2014. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Sam Holmes)

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