ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.6 percent to 21,680.34 while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.3 percent to 26,183.53. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.2 percent to 2,092.40. Australia's S&P ASX 200 was 0.1 percent lower at 5,730.60. The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.4 percent higher to 2,679.11. Shares in Southeast Asia mostly rose.
CHINA-U.S. TRADE: Markets were supported in Asian trading hours by a Financial Times report that said the United States' trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, has told some executives that a planned escalation in January of U.S. tariffs on imported goods from China is now on hold. The Trump administration has imposed a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods over complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology as the price of market access. That tariff had been due to rise to 25 percent in January. Another $50 billion of Chinese goods already is subject to 25 percent duties. Beijing has responded with penalty duties on $110 billion of American goods. Washington and Beijing resumed talks over their spiraling trade dispute this week ahead of a meeting between Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, China's Commerce Ministry said Thursday.
BREXIT: Discord over British Prime Minister Theresa May's plan for Britain's departure from the European Union next year has shaken major European stock indexes and the pound. May persuaded a majority in her Cabinet to back an agreement that would allow Britain to stay in a customs union while a trade treaty is negotiated, but the deal faces an uncertain fate in Parliament and two of her Cabinet ministers, including the Brexit minister, resigned in protest.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 86 cents to $57.32 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It added 0.4 percent to settle at $56.46 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $1.12 to $67.74 a barrel. Despite the latest uptick, U.S. crude oil is still down about 12 percent for the month.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 113.26 yen from 113.64 yen on Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.1339 from $1.1326. The pound steadied at $1.2816, up from $1.2771.