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Asian Equities Rise; China Reports Disappointing Export Data

Asian equities continued to rise in afternoon trade – Asian equities continued to rise in afternoon trade on Friday after U.S. president Donald Trump backtracked on his suggestion of an imminent missile attack on Syria, but Mainland Chinese markets underperformed its regional peers as data on Friday showed the country’s exports in March unexpectedly fell.

Export unexpectedly fell 2.7% in March from a year earlier, missed the estimate of a 11.8% increase, while trade surplus with the U.S. rose 19.4% in the first quarter to $58.3 billion from the same period a year earlier, the country’s custom administration said on Friday.

The Shanghai Composite and Shenzhen Component fell 0.4% and 0.1% by 1:44PM ET (05:44 GMT) following the release of the data. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index were unchanged at 30,851.

Asian stocks were supported by reports that Trump is considering to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade deal that he pulled out shortly after taking office. Meanwhile, Trump said on Thursday that China and the U.S. might not levy any new tariffs on each other after all.

“Now we’re really negotiating and I think they’re going to treat us really fairly,” Trump said during a White House meeting with Republican governors and lawmakers from farm states. “I think they want to.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.7%, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3%. The Reserve Bank of Australia cautioned on Friday that the danger of high household financial debt remains, although the incidences are not widespread at the moment.

Reports that Japan’s government would set up a new panel to look into options to mitigate the impact of the upcoming sales tax would have on the economy were in focus. The news came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier that the government could consider fiscal spending and other measures to ensure the tax hike does not hurt the economy.

A previous increase in the tax rate in 2014 pushed the economy into recession.

Elsewhere, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) tightened monetary policy for the first time in six years on Friday, and acknowledged risks from the U.S.-China trade tensions.

The central bank said it would slightly increase the slope of the Singapore dollars policy band from the previous zero percent.

"This policy stance is consistent with a modest and gradual appreciation path of the nominal effective exchange rate policy band that will ensure medium-term price stability," the MAS said.

"An escalation of the US-China trade dispute remains possible, and if it occurs, will have significant consequences for global trade," the MAS said.

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