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Asian markets mixed after US shares forge new highs

BEIJING (AP) — Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday after a fresh set of record highs on Wall Street, spurred by encouraging signs on trade talks between the U.S. and China. Japan’s Nikkei 225 advanced 0.3% to 23,437.77 while the S&P ASX 200 in Australia climbed 0.9% to 6,850.60. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.3% to 2,127.85. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong was almost unchanged at 26,916.84. The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.2% to 2,900.47.

Shares fell in Malaysia but rose in Taiwan and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Investors have grown more hopeful over trade negotiations as the world’s two largest economies continue to keep their rhetoric in check. That’s a clear difference from earlier this year, when a sharp comment from either side would seemingly silence any ongoing talks and worsen relations.

The latest signals indicating that China and the U.S. are making progress toward a deal on trade have been particularly encouraging, as new U.S. tariffs are set to hit Dec. 15 on many Chinese-made items on holiday shopping checklists, such as smartphones and laptops.

Investors hoping that Washington and Beijing can agree on terms of a deal that halts their trade dispute, or at least stops it from escalating. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that “We’re in the final throes of a very deal. I guess you could say one of the most important deals in trade ever.”

That followed comments in Beijing, where the Commerce Ministry said negotiators for both sides had spoken on the phone and agreed to more talks aimed at reaching a deal. The latest development came a day after China announced new guidelines for the protection of patents and copyrights, which has been a key issue in the dispute.

While most of the news on trade tensions between Washington and Beijing pointed toward progress, the Department of Commerce announced a plan to begin requiring case-by-case approvals of all purchases by telecommunications companies of equipment that might pose a security risk.

The move follows an order by President Donald Trump in May declaring a national emergency as a first step toward barring such deals. Major telecoms gear suppliers like China’s Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp. would likely be the hardest hit. The Commerce Department proposal could complicate efforts to reach a preliminary agreement that the two sides say is close to completion.

Overnight on Wall Street, retailers and other companies that rely on consumer spending helped power the modest rally, which adds to the market’s solid start to the week. Only energy, banks and health care sector stocks ended with losses. Bond prices rose, sending yields lower.

“Generally, you can kind of look at the commentary coming out and I’d say it leans in the direction of progress being made, albeit at a fairly slow pace,” said Jason Pride, chief investment officer of private wealth at Glenmede Trust.

The S&P 500 index rose 0.2% to 3,140.52. The benchmark index is on a three-day winning streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2% to 28,121.68. The Nasdaq composite added 0.2% to 8,647.93. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 0.1% to 1,624.23.

The major stock indexes are on track for strong gains this year. The S&P 500 is up by more than 25%, while the Dow is up by more than 20%. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, is now up by more than 30%. Surprisingly good corporate earnings, solid economic data, interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and more optimism on the part of investors about the prospects for a U.S.-China trade deal have helped spur the market higher since late October.

Traders also got a new read on the U.S. consumer Tuesday. The Conference Board said its closely watched consumer confidence index fell slightly for the fourth consecutive month to 125.5. Still, the reading remains elevated ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Investors will have several other economic reports to assess on Wednesday, including home sales data, a key measure of inflation and the government’s latest quarterly estimate of economic growth. In energy trading, benchmark crude oil lost 19 cents to $58.22 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 40 cents to settle at $58.41 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, lost 18 cents to $63.03 per barrel.

The dollar rose to 109.13 Japanese yen from 109.03 yen on Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.1017 from $1.1021.

AP Business Writers Alex Veiga and Damian J. Troise contributed.

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