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Asian stocks jump as an initial US-China trade deal moves closer toward reality

Stocks in Asia popped on news that US and Chinese negotiators have agreed in principle to an initial “phase one” trade deal, cooling tensions somewhat between the world’s top two economies.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 2.4%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index also advanced 2.1%, poised for the biggest daily gain in more than two months. South Korea’s Kospi was up 1.3%. China’s Shanghai Composite also rose 1.2%.

US futures all improved during Asian trading hours, too.

The deal has yet to be formally announced. But President Donald Trump has signed off on the agreement, which would likely delay another round of US tariffs scheduled to take effect Sunday, according to US officials and others familiar with the matter. The agreement would also reduce existing tariff rates in exchange for Chinese purchases of US farm goods.

Trump and Chinese officials already announced the broad contours of the “phase one” deal two months ago. They’ve been haggling over specifics ever since.

While this deal would likely avert the duties the United States is scheduled to levy against $155 billion worth of Chinese goods Sunday, it does not address the major structural changes to China’s economy that Trump has sought.

The next phase of trade talks could be “even trickier,” said Stephen Innes, a market strategist for Asia Pacific at Axi Trader. There are still significant points of tension between the two countries — Trump recently signed into law a bill supporting Hong Kong protesters, for example. US lawmakers are also calling for tough sanctions on Beijing over reports of mass detention centers in the country’s western region of Xinjiang.

The “phase one” deal represents “some of the lowest hanging fruits in the negotiation,” said Tai Hui, Asia chief market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management. He added that future stages will be much more challenging, since they would presumably involve issues related to China’s industrial policy and technological development.

The US presidential election next year could also push trade talks into a “stasis phase,” he added.

— Laura He contributed to this report.