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Asian shares rise amid optimism about Hong Kong, Brexit

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly higher Thursday amid encouraging global developments, including British lawmakers seeking a less chaotic exit from the European Union and the potential easing of political tensions in Hong Kong.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 2.3% to 21,118.15 in afternoon trading. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.9% to 6,613.20, while South Korea's Kospi gained nearly 1.0% to 2,007.43. Hong Kong's Hang Seng erased earlier gains and was down 0.8% at 26,304.96, while the Shanghai Composite rose 1.2% to 2,992.34.

Shares rallied on Wall Street, reversing Tuesday's losses, when disappointing U.S. manufacturing data and an escalation in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China led to a sell-off that ended a three-day winning streak for the market.

The S&P 500 gained 31.51 points, or 1.1%, to 2,937.78. The Dow Jones Industrial Average 237.45 points, or 0.9%, to 26,355.47. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, climbed 102.72 points, or 1.3%, to 7,976.88. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 12.47 points, or 0.8%, to 1,484.76.

Investors have been worried that the trade war and a slowing global economy could tip the U.S. into a recession. But traders set aside those concerns Wednesday, focusing instead on geopolitical developments.

In Hong Kong, the government said it was formally withdrawing the extradition bill that set off three months of protests, though protesters say they will keep up their push for their other demands to be met.

In Europe, Britain's parliament took a big step toward passing a law that could stop Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to pull out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a withdrawal agreement. Leaving the EU without a deal that covers trade and other issues could result in economic chaos for Britain and complicate trade with member nations in the EU.

The lingering trade conflict between Washington and Beijing has roiled markets this summer. The economic uncertainty has also become a drag on companies. On Sunday, the conflict escalated as the U.S. imposed a 15% tariff on about $112 billion of Chinese products. China responded by charging tariffs of 10% and 5% on a list of American goods.

The escalation had been expected since early August when the U.S. announced plans for the new tariff measures, prompting China to retaliate. China's Commerce Ministry announced Thursday that talks with the United States on ending their tariff war will take place in early October in Washington, later than previously planned.

Some analysts warned against too much optimism. "While a drop in geopolitical risk premium comes as a welcome relief, but with the omnipresent trade war clouds looming ominously over the market threatening to come thundering down at any time, the air remains thick with caution," said Stephen Innes, Asian Pacific market strategist with AxiTrader.

ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil edged down 15 cents to $56.11 a barrel. It rose $2.32 to settle at $56.26 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, fell 8 cents to $60.62 a barrel. CURRENCIES:

The dollar rose to 106.56 Japanese yen from 106.21 yen on Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1028 from $1.1009.

AP Business Writers Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed to this report.

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