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Asian stocks cheered by fresh trade talk momentum

By Stanley White
Men are reflected on an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo

By Stanley White

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks rose on Tuesday, bolstered by Wall Street's record closing highs and signs of new momentum in Beijing's and Washington's efforts to end their long and acrimonious trade dispute.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 0.5% to a one-week high. Australian shares <.AXJO> were up 0.9%, while Japan's Nikkei stock index <.N225> rose 0.91%.

Shares in the region extended gains on Tuesday after Beijing said Liu He, China's Vice premier and chief trade negotiator, held a call with his U.S. counterparts and that both sides reached consensus on solving relevant problems.

That followed positive headlines out of China and the United States on Monday, which had helped bolster confidence.

The yen fell to a two-week low versus the dollar, while the Swiss franc traded near a six-week low against the greenback as the optimistic tone sapped demand for safe-haven currencies.

Oil prices erased early losses to edge higher amid cautious optimism about progress toward relieving one of the biggest risks to the global economic outlook.

"The broad trend is the markets are looking for a deal because trade has been the biggest factor weighing on global growth and holding back confidence," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital Investors in Sydney.

"We have a low interest rate environment that is supportive of equities. If we get better economic news and relief from geopolitical risks, equities could rally further next year."

U.S. stock futures <ESc1> rose 0.21% in Asia on Tuesday.

Wall Street's three main stock averages closed at record highs on Monday, buoyed by hopes for a trade deal and by M&A activity.

Traders pointed to China's decision to increase punishments for intellectual property rights violations as a fresh concession to the United States in the drawn-out and volatile negotiations.

Investors were also encouraged by positive comments from U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese state-owned media about the chance for an imminent trade deal.

Also driving Wall Street higher was a burst of major acquisition activity with France's LVMH <LVMH.PA> offer to buy U.S. jeweller Tiffany & Co <TIF.N> and Charles Schwab Corp's <SCHW.N> purchase of U.S. discount brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp <AMTD.O>.

Despite the recent optimism, a quick resolution to the U.S.-China trade war is far from certain given relations between the world's two-largest economies have stalled many times before.

The United States has imposed tariffs on Chinese goods in a 16-month long dispute over trade practices that the U.S. government says are unfair. China has responded in kind with its own tariffs on U.S. goods.

If both sides cannot reach an agreement soon, the next important date to watch is Dec. 15, when Washington is scheduled to impose even more tariffs on Chinese goods.

In the offshore market, the yuan <CNH=D3> briefly rose to a one-week high of 7.0188 versus the dollar.

The yen <JPY=EBS> fell to 109.205 per dollar, the lowest since Nov. 12, as safe-haven demand waned.

The Swiss franc <CHF=EBS>, another safe-haven, traded at 0.9971 per dollar, close to the lowest since Oct. 16.

Sterling <GBP=D3> traded at $1.2904, holding onto overnight gains as polls show the ruling Conservatives as runaway favourites to win a Dec. 12 election with a pledge to implement Britain's divorce from the European Union.

Bitcoin <BTC=BTSP>, the world's biggest cryptocurrency, rose 0.64% on Tuesday to $7,167.99. Bitcoin slumped to a six-month low on Monday after the People's Bank of China (PBOC) launched a fresh crackdown on cryptocurrencies.

The PBOC is stepping up efforts to roll out its own digital currency, partly to fend off potential threats from Facebook's proposed digital currency, Libra.

U.S. crude <CLc1> ticked up 0.03% to $58.03 a barrel. Brent crude <LCOc1> rose 0.09% to $63.71 per barrel.

Oil traders await data this week that is forecast to show a decline in U.S. crude oil inventories.

In addition, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meets on Dec. 5, where the bloc is widely expected to extend supply cuts to mid-2020.

(Editing by Sam Holmes)