Asian shares mixed as China-US trade talks drag on

BANGKOK — Shares were mixed in Asia on Monday as investors awaited further developments in trade talks between the U.S. and China.

Major benchmarks were mostly higher, with the Shanghai Composite up 1.2 percent to 3,006.19 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gaining 0.7 percent to 28,433.78.

Weaker than expected Chinese loan and money supply data raised expectations of further action to spur the slowing economy. The 885.8 billion yuan ($132 billion) in new loans in February was below forecasts and much lower than the 3.23 trillion yuan in new lending in January.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index added 0.5 percent to 21,134.83 and the S&P ASX 200 in Australia slipped 0.4 percent to 6,176.30. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.1 percent to 2,135.42. Shares were lower in Singapore and Jakarta but rose in Thailand and Taipei.

It was a steady start for the week after a wave of selling on Wall Street Friday left the S&P 500 with its worst weekly showing since January and its eighth loss in nine trading sessions.

The sell-off followed a surprisingly weak jobs report and more signs that the global economy is hitting the brakes. On Friday a report showed Chinese exports plunged 20 percent last month, far more than economists expected. On Thursday, Europe's central bank said it was doing a policy reversal and restoring measures to shore up that region's economy.

The S&P 500 dropped 0.2 percent to 2,743.07. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.1 percent to 25,450.24. The Nasdaq composite declined 0.2 percent to 7,408.14 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 0.1 percent, to 1,521.88. Major European indexes also closed lower.

U.S. and Chinese officials say the trade talks are making progress but no formal agreements or details of negotiations have been released.

China's central bank governor on Sunday affirmed an official promise to avoid manipulating its currency to boost exports, an issue he said American and Chinese negotiators discussed in the latest talks in Washington aimed at ending a conflict over Beijing's technology ambitions that has prompted both sides to raise tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods.

Speaking at a news conference during the meeting of China's ceremonial legislature, Yi Gang gave no indication the two sides had reached agreements beyond previous commitments produced by meetings of the Group of 20 major economies.

U.S. complaints that Beijing manipulates the yuan's government-controlled exchange rate for a trade advantage have taken a backseat lately to frustration at its industrial policy. But American officials have long pressed China to allow the yuan to fluctuate more freely in response to market forces.

"'We stress that we will never use the exchange rate for competitive purposes, nor will we use it to boost China's exports," Yi said.

He repeated official promises that China's stock and bond markets would open wider to global investors and its currency would trade more freely but gave no details or a timeline.

The yuan's value sank this year, coming close to breaking the symbolic level of seven per dollar before rebounding slightly to about 6.7 to the greenback.

"Our exchange rate is relatively stable. But at the same time, that stability does not mean the exchange rate is fixed," said Yi.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil gained 27 cents to $56.34 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 59 cents to $56.07 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 28 cents to $66.02 per barrel. It lost 0.8 cents to close at $65.74 per barrel on Friday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was trading at 111.12 yen, down slightly from 111.17 yen on Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1233 from $1.1230.

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Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed.

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