Stocks scale six-month high on hopes for a trade deal

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BENGALURU (Feb 25): Emerging-market shares surged on Monday, led by the biggest one-day gains for Chinese stocks in more than three years, after US President Donald Trump extended a deadline for China and the United States to reach a trade agreement.

Trump's decision came less than a week before US tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports were due to rise to 25% from 10%.

The delay "means that the scenario people were worried about — that tariffs would go up ... and China would respond — has been taken off the table, at least for now," said Gareth Leather, a senior economist with Capital Economics.

"I suspect given Trump's personal involvement, we will probably see a deal being reached," he said. But he warned that "if Trump is serious about the reservations he's had about China, I don't think they are going to be resolved with a deal, given how intractable they are."

Mainland China blue-chip shares climbed by 6% and the Shanghai Composite jumped 5.6%. Both reached their highest in more than eight months and posted their best day since about July 2015.

Trump confirmed the extension on Sunday but did not set a new deadline. He said there could be "very big news over the next week or two" if all went well in the negotiations, and he agreed to meet with Chinese leader President Xi Jinping.

The uncertainty spurred by the US-China trade war has roiled emerging markets for months, prompting investors to jettison risky assets. Stocks rose across the developing world.

The MSCI index of emerging-market shares jumped 0.7% to its highest in almost six months. Turkey's BIST index was up 1.5% and Russian and South African shares climbed more than 0.5% each.

The Chinese yuan also gained after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said US and Chinese officials had reached a deal on currency issues. It was last up 0.3% at 6.6908.

South Africa's rand rose 1% and Russia's rouble was set for a seventh straight day of gains.

Among European currencies, the Czech crown gained after Vojtech Benda, a central bank board member, said policymakers might consider raising interest rates if a no-deal Brexit weakened the crown.