Global stocks surge on China-US trade breakthrough hopes

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NEW YORK: Stock markets across the globe powered higher Friday, buoyed by hopes of a breakthrough in efforts to defuse a US-China trade war. 

European and Asian indices bounced back strongly on Thursday after The Wall Street Journal reported Washington was considering lifting tariffs on China as officials look to hammer out a trade deal. 

Wall Street joined the party later Friday, with major indices rising one percent or more to close out the fourth day in a row of gains. The Dow has risen more than 13 percent since December 24. 

Bloomberg also reported Friday that Beijing had offered to eliminate its soaring trade surplus with the United States in five years. 
"Global markets are enjoying an overwhelmingly bullish end to the week, with hopes of a potential breakthrough in US-China trade talks helping drive optimism," said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at traders IG. 

There's "definitely rising optimism" of a trade deal, said LBBW's Karl Haeling. "There are kind of smoke signals and when there is smoke there is fire," Haeling said. "It seems that Trump sees the weakening of the economy and the shutdown situation. He seems to be doing something to get a win here." 

However, there was also skepticism among some analysts, with the two sides still far apart on a number of issues, particularly regarding intellectual property. 

On currency markets the pound edged lower, giving up earlier gains seen as dealers bet that Britain would not leave the European Union without a deal. 

After her grand Brexit plan was soundly rebuffed by MPs this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May has called cross-party talks to put together a "Plan B" by Monday. 

If that does not work, there is a growing expectation that the March 29 exit deadline will be pushed back to give May more time to reach another deal or possibly call another referendum. 

Oil prices rise
Oil prices meanwhile rose on the China-US tariffs report and after OPEC said it had cut output in December before a new agreement to limit supply took effect. 

Both main contracts are up around a fifth since the end of December, thanks to an agreement to cut output by OPEC and other key producers including Russia. 

That followed almost three months of losses that wiped around 40 percent off prices amid concerns supply was running ahead of demand. Shares of US companies with significant China operations gained, including Dow member Boeing, Caterpillar and Nike. 
But Tesla Motors dived 13 percent after the electric car maker announced plans to cut seven percent of its workforce and forecast lean profits. 

Netflix fell 4.0 percent as its profits topped analyst expectations but analysts worried that subscriber growth was slowing. AFP