Asian stocks marginally higher on backdrop of US-China talks

Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 18, 2018. Asian stock markets trade marginally higher as U.S. and Chinese officials are holding a new round of talks to avert a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A currency trader walks with documents at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 18, 2018. Asian stock markets trade marginally higher as U.S. and Chinese officials are holding a new round of talks to avert a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A currency trader talks on the phone at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 18, 2018. Asian stock markets trade marginally higher as U.S. and Chinese officials are holding a new round of talks to avert a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL, South Korea — Asian stock markets were marginally higher on Friday as U.S. and Chinese officials held a new round of talks seeking to avert a trade war between the world's two largest economies.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.4 percent to 22,925.04 and South Korea's Kospi index also added 0.2 percent to 2,452.48. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.1 percent to 30,965.82. The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.2 percent to 3,161.40. But Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 percent to 6,081.40. Stocks rose in Taiwan and were mixed in Southeast Asia.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "A lack of data lies ahead of this Friday, leaving the U.S.-China trade developments the key item to occupy the market's attention into the end of the week," said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore. "This all leaves risk assets with little guide of a direction."

TRADE TALKS: The Trump administration has proposed tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese products to punish Beijing for forcing American companies to turn over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market. China has countered by targeting $50 billion in U.S. products. Neither country has imposed the tariffs.

TRUMP: While fielding questions from reporters Thursday afternoon, Trump suggested the talks may not end up averting a trade war with China: "Will that be successful? I tend to doubt it," Trump said.

WALL STREET: U.S. stock indexes closed slightly lower, with the S&P 500 index down 0.1 percent to 2,720.13. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.2 percent to 24,713.98. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.2 percent to 7,382.47. But the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 0.6 percent to 1,625.29.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 8 cents to $71.57 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract finished flat at $71.49 per barrel in the previous session. Brent crude, used to price international oil, gained 22 cents to $79.52 per barrel in London. It closed at $79.30 a barrel in the previous day, up 2 cents, after briefly touching above $80 a barrel, its highest level since November 2014.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 110.95 yen from 110.76 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1801 from $1.1795.

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