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Asian shares higher as region eyes Trump-Kim summit

YURI KAGEYAMA
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Chinese investors monitor stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Asian shares were higher in muted trading Wednesday as investors watch the second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares rose in muted trading Wednesday as investors awaited the outcome of a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.5 percent in early trading Wednesday to 21,553.22. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 6,144.70. South Korea's Kospi edged up 0.2 percent to 2,231.73. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent to 28,902.48, while the Shanghai Composite index gained 0.8 percent to 2,964.58.

Kim and Trump both arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday and begin their meetings later in the day. The two leaders first met in June in Singapore, a summit that was long on historic pageantry but short in any enforceable agreements for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Trump and Kim are to have a private dinner Wednesday evening and hold talks Thursday in hopes of building on Singapore's aspirational agreement.

U.S. stock indexes capped a day of wobbly trading with slight losses Tuesday, erasing some of their modest gains from a day earlier. The market changed course several times during the day as investors balanced conflicting U.S. economic data and testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

The Fed chief told Congress that the U.S. economy should keep expanding at a solid, though somewhat slower pace this year, and reassured markets that the central bank would be "patient" in raising interest rates. Those comments, which indicate steady policy ahead, cheered sentiments among Asian markets.

"Powell's reference to neutral size of the Fed's balance sheet as being consistent with reserves around $1 trillion 'plus a buffer' adds to comfort that the Fed will err on the side of cautiou rather than unsettle with 'overtightening,'" Mizuho Bank said in a commentary.

The S&P 500 dropped 0.1 percent to 2,793.90, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.1 percent to 26,057.98. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.1 percent, to 7,549.30. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 0.7 percent to 1,577.48. Major European indexes finished mostly higher.

ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude added 52 cents to $56.02 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was essentially flat at $55.50 a barrel in New York overnight. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 37 cents to $65.73 a barrel.

The dollar was flat at 110.58 yen. The euro fell to $1.1379 from $1.1388 on Tuesday.

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