Hint of Trade Exemptions Spurs Asia Markets

Markets in Asia closed higher on Thursday, with stocks clawing back gains after sliding in the last session on trade-related fears. Gains in the region came after U.S. stocks closed above session lows on fresh developments related to planned metals tariffs.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 regained 115.35 points, or 0.5%, to 21,368.07.

The Hang Seng Index recovered 457.6 points, or 1.5%, to 30,654.52, as all of its sectors traded in positive territory.

Steel producers mostly clung to gains. Kobe Steel rose 3% and JFE Holdings added 0.2%, although Nisshin Steel slipped 0.4%. Technology names mostly traded higher, with Nintendo rising 4.1%

Against the yen, the greenback last traded at 105.96, slipping once more below the 106 level after closing at 106.80 on Wednesday. The U.S. currency had dipped from the 106.1 handle to levels around 105.5 on the back of Trump adviser Gary Cohn's resignation during Wednesday Asia hours.

On the data front, fourth-quarter gross domestic product in Japan was revised higher to 1.6% from an initial estimate of 0.5%. That was also above the 0.9% increase projected by experts

Of note, the Bank of Japan began its monetary policy meeting on Thursday.

In Hong Kong, the heavily-weighted financials sector was firmly higher: HSBC advanced 0.7% and insurer AIA added 3% ahead of the market close.

Korea surged on a strong showing in the technology space. Large cap Samsung Electronics rose 1.2% with Samsung Heavy jumping 8.8%

Steel producers gained on the back of tariff-related developments out of Washington, with Posco up 3% and Hyundai Steel rising 3.2% by the end of the day.

In Australia, most of the index's sub-indexes notched gains, although the materials and energy sectors were in the red after commodities struggled in the last session.

The U.S. dollar was steady against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index trading at 89.585 late afternoon after touching a two-week low of 89.407 in the last session.

CHINA

The CSI 300 recouped 40.95 points, or 1%, to 4,077.60

Meanwhile, health care and consumer stocks were the best-performing sectors on the blue chip CSI 300 index.

The gains came after Chinese exports in February jumped 44.5% from one year ago. That was above the median 13.6% rise estimated by experts.

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex climbed 77.92 points, or 0.7%, to 10,823.24

In Korea, the Kospi gained 31.26 points, or 1.3%, to 2,433.08

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index perked 29.75 points, or 0.9%, to 3,480.44

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 hiked 74.36 points, or 0.9%, to 8,350.70

The ASX 200 picked up 40.88 points, or 0.7%, to 5,942.87