Investors were encouraged by a Bloomberg News report that Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead a U.S. delegation to Shanghai. That would be the first face-to-face talks since Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed in June to resume negotiations aimed at ending a bruising tariff war over U.S. complaints about Chinese technology ambitions.
Markets have welcomed any sign of possible progress despite warnings the U.S.-Chinese truce is fragile because the two sides still are separated by the same disputes that caused talks to founder in May. Those include U.S. restrictions on technology sales to Chinese tech giant Huawei.
"While the resumption of trade talks appears to mitigate any near-term deterioration in U.S.-China tensions, prudent investors will not get carried away, seeing as a meaningful deal still seems a long way off," said Han Tan of FXTM in a report.
In midday trading, London's FTSE 100 fell 0.9% to 7,485 and France's CAC-40 declined 0.5% to 5,595. Frankfurt's DAX rose a more modest 0.4% to 12,538 after a report showed a deep slump in manufacturing activity in Europe's largest economy, raising the chances that the European Central Bank could loosen monetary policy, perhaps as soon as Thursday.
As Wall Street readies for another batch of corporate earnings, the future for the Standard & Poor's 500 fell 0.2% 3,001, and that for the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.2% to 27,280. Nearly 150 companies in the S&P 500 are due to report results through Friday. Analysts are expecting earnings to decline overall for the second quarter in a row.
Investors are also watching to see how the selection of a new prime minister, Boris Johnson, will affect Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, originally scheduled for March. Johnson promised to "deliver Brexit" after his predecessor, Theresa May, resigned following parliament's repeated rejections of terms to leave the 28-nation trade bloc. That raises the potentially disruptive prospect of Britain leaving without agreeing on trade and other conditions.
The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.8% to 2,923.28 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 climbed 0.4% to 21,709.57. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng advanced 0.2% to 28,524.04. Seoul's Kospi sank 0.9% to 2,082.30, while the Sensex in India lost 0.9% to 37,900.04.
Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.8% to 6,776.70. New Zealand, Taiwan and Southeast Asian markets fell. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 15 cents to $56.92 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 55 cents on Wednesday to close at $56.77. Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced 6 cents to $63.89 in London. It gained 57 cents in the previous session to $63.83.
CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 108.05 Japanese yen from Tuesday's 108.23 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1148 from $1.1150.
Matt Ott in Washington contributed to this report.