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China holds up Asia stocks; oil gains on North Sea outage


´╗┐Asian stocks edged up on Wednesday, helped by a bounce in Chinese shares, though investors held off from making big bets before a highly-anticipated summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping gets underway on Thursday. European stocks were set to follow Asia's steady lead with index futures pointing to a slightly higher start. FFIc1 Chinese construction shares were among the top gainers after Beijing on Saturday announced plans to build Xiongan New Area, modeled on the Shenzhen special economic zone next to Hong Kong that helped kickstart China's economic reforms in 1980."This is a very headline-driven market and the only source of optimism is the new economic zone news over the weekend - but that is unlikely to be sustainable," said Conita Hung, an independent market strategist in Hong Kong. Shares in more than 30 listed companies seen likely to benefit from the new zone jumped by the 10 percent daily trade limit. Mainland markets . SSEC reopened on Wednesday for trading after a long weekend and outperformed regional bourses, rising more than 1 percent. Hong Kong stocks . HSI gave up early gains and were flat on the day.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan . MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.1 percent, edging back towards a 19-month high hit on March. 30. India's shares . NSEI opened at a record high before retreating. Energy-related shares also offered some support to investors as oil prices rose on Tuesday thanks to an unplanned production outage in the North Sea and growing concerns about diminishing U.S. oil stocks. [O/R]U.S. crude CLc1 rose for a second consecutive session to its highest levels in more than a month at $51.37 per barrel on Wednesday.

Still, investors remained broadly cautious with safe-haven assets such as gold XAU= and Japanese yen JPY= remaining well supported before the landmark Trump-Xi summit on Thursday and Friday. It will be their first face-to-face meeting since Trump took office on Jan. 20, with trade and security issues set to feature prominently. The Korean Peninsula has been a notable hot spot of geopolitical tensions, with North Korea firing a medium-range ballistic missile from its east coast into the sea on the eve of the summit. and "Markets are really on hold at the moment," said Ric Spooner, Chief market strategist at CMC markets, adding that investors are looking to catalysts from the Trump-Xi meeting as well as the U.S. earnings season. Gold held near a one-month high at $1,254.45 per ounce, rising nearly 4.7 percent in the last three weeks.

Major currencies traded in a narrow range ahead of the release of minutes from the Fed March meeting in which it raised interest rates, and before the big U.S. jobs report on Friday. The greenback got some help from Japanese importers on a 'gotobi' date - the fifth day of the month and dates that are multiple of five - on which accounts are traditionally settled. The dollar held firm at 110.61 yen JPY=D4 against the Japanese currency. "Today, there is real demand for the dollar on 'gotobi,' so its downside should be limited," said Kaneo Ogino, director at foreign exchange research firm Global-info Co in Tokyo. The dollar index . DXY, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six trade-weighted peers, was broadly flat at 100.52. The euro EUR=EBS was a shade stronger at $1.06795. Bonds came in for some profit-taking after yields fell in the previous sessions. Yields on two-year U.S. Treasury bonds US2YT=RR rose to 1.26 percent after hitting a six-week low of 1.226 percent on Monday.

Fears of delays to Trump tax cuts hit Wall Street


´╗┐Wall Street fell sharply on Tuesday as investors worried that President Donald Trump will struggle to deliver promised tax cuts that propelled the market to record highs in recent months, with nervousness increasing ahead of a key healthcare vote. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average lost around 1 percent and were on track for their worst one-day percentage declines since before Trump's election victory in November. The S&P financial index . SPSY dropped 2.47 percent and was heading for its biggest daily fall since June. That added to losses in the sector since the Federal Reserve last week raised interest rates by 25 basis points and signaled it would remain on a gradual pace of hikes, a less aggressive stance than some investors expected. Banks benefit from higher interest rates and their stocks are sensitive to changes in expectations of how quickly the Fed will change rates. Bank of America (BAC. N) slumped 5.48 percent, the biggest drag on the S&P 500, while a 2.98 percent drop in Goldman Sachs (GS. N) pulled the Dow lower."There was a feeling the Fed was going to possibly be more hawkish last week. That didn't happen," said Mark Kepner, managing director at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey. "That takes a little out of the higher rates that the banks want." Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries US10YT=RR were last up 10/32 in price to yield 2.44 percent, the lowest yield since March 1.

Republican party leaders aim to move controversial healthcare legislation to the House floor for debate as early as Thursday. But they can only afford to lose about 20 votes from Republican ranks, or risk the bill failing, since minority Democrats are united against it. With valuations stretched, investors see the Trump administration's struggles to push through the healthcare overhaul as a sign he may also face setbacks delivering promised corporate tax cuts. Expectations of those tax cuts are a major reason for the 10-percent surge in the S&P 500 since Trump's election in November. "The market is starting to get a little fed up with the lack of progress in healthcare because everything else is being put on the back burner," said RJ Grant, head of trading at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in New York.

The Russell 2000 index of smallcap stocks was down 2.13 percent, on pace for its worst day since September. The financial sector has been the best performing of the 11 major S&P sectors since Trump's election, surging nearly 20 percent on his proposals to cut bank regulations and reduce taxes. The Dow Jones Industrial Average . DJI was down 0.97 percent at 20,702.71 points, while the S&P 500 . SPX lost 1.05 percent to 2,348.52. The Nasdaq Composite . IXIC dropped 1.49 percent to 5,813.39.

Wall Street should avoid cutting foreign bank ties: U.S. regulator WASHINGTON/ST LOUIS U.S. banks should not cut ties with foreign clients over money- laundering worries unless officials have concrete cause for concern, a leading U.S. regulator is telling staff and lenders.

Google to revamp policies, hire staff after UK ad scandal LONDON Google vowed on Tuesday to police its websites better by ramping up staff numbers and overhauling its policies after several companies deserted the internet giant for failing to keep their adverts off hate-filled videos.

Apple drives further into Facebook, Snap territory with video app SAN FRANCISCO With the release of a new video app called Clips, Apple Inc is inching one step closer to fully engaging in the messaging world, where its huge base of iPhone users could help it compete with Snap Inc's Snapchat and Facebook Inc's Messenger.