January 2, 2020 / 2:17 AM / 7 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares rise on China's policy easing, trade deal hopes

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan +0.35%

* China blue-chips jump after PBOC announces RRR cut

* Trump says Phase 1 trade deal to be signed Jan. 15.

* Asian stock markets: tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Asian shares kicked off the new decade higher on Thursday, after global stocks ended the previous one at record highs, and buoyed by Chinese markets after Beijing eased monetary policy to support slowing growth.

Investors also cheered news that the United States and China will sign a trade pact soon after a year of volatile negotiations between the world's two largest economies.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.35% in morning trade after rising 5.6% in December.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Phase 1 of trade deal with China would be signed on Jan. 15 at the White House, though uncertainty surrounds details about the agreement.

Rising hopes for a resolution to the U.S.-China trade war helped propel global equities to record highs late last year and depress the value of the U.S. dollar.

MSCI's all-country world index of stock performance in 49 nations touched an all-time high of 567.80 on Dec. 27. It was last quoted at 565.46, off 0.41% from that peak.

In China, the blue-chip CSI300 index, one of the world's best-performing indexes last year, was 1.34% higher in early trade.

China's central bank on Wednesday that it would cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves, releasing around 800 billion yuan in funds effective Jan. 6.

"I think the monetary angle in terms of what it means for the companies, is not that important," said Jim McCafferty, head of Asia ex-Japan equity research at Nomura in Hong Kong.

"However for what it means for the consumer point of view, then clearly if there's easy money and ... individuals can borrow cheaply, repay debt quickly, then that of course is going to help the economy and the companies."

McCafferty said he expects a memory up-cycle and new handset development prompted by the rollout of 5G mobile technology could help to lift tech-heavy markets like Korea and Taiwan this year.

Australian shares flicked between small gains and losses, and were last up 0.2%. Seoul's Kospi began the year down 0.85%, while shares in Taiwan added 0.51%.

Markets in Japan are closed for a national holiday.

The gains in Asia follow a bullish end to the year on Wall Street on Tuesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.27% to 28,538.44 and the S&P 500 gained 0.29% to 3,230.78. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.3% to 8,972.60.

In currency markets on Thursday, the dollar continued to weaken slightly against major peers as investors bet on a better outlook for global growth and trade.

The dollar was 0.06% weaker against the yen at 108.64 while the euro gained 0.11% to 1.1222.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six rivals, was little changed, rising 0.04% to 96.427.

U.S. crude was up 0.36% to $61.28 and global benchmark Brent crude rose to $66.24 per barrel, building on a rise that gave oil its biggest annual gain in three years in 2019.

Gold, which has benefited from a weaker greenback, was up 0.18% on the spot market, fetching $1,519.64 per ounce.

Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Sam Holmes

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