By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. stock futures and Asian equities eked out modest gains on Wednesday as investors seized on Apple Inc’s earnings and comments from its chief that U.S.-China trade tensions were easing, sending the iPhone maker’s shares soaring in after-hours trade.
Sterling smarted from a 0.7 percent fall the previous day after British lawmakers rejected most amendments that sought to avoid Britain leaving the European Union without a deal, reviving worries of a chaotic withdrawal from the European Union.
tacked on 0.1 percent in early trade while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.05 percent
Japan’s rose 0.2 percent before erasing gains.
On Tuesday Wall Street shares dipped, with losing 0.15 percent as technology-related shares were dogged by a string of weak earning results while a rebound in 3M (NYSE:) and other industrials helped the squeeze out small gains.
Apple shares (NASDAQ:) rose 5.7 percent after the bell as the iPhone maker reported sharp growth in its services business.
Investors were relieved that there was no fresh bad news after the company shocked financial markets at the start of this month when its rare revenue warning sparked fears the U.S.-China trade tensions are taking a toll on the once high-flying tech sector.
CEO Tim Cook, who is in regular contact with U.S. President Donald Trump, also said trade tension between the United States and China is easing in January.
That helped to boost optimism around current high-level trade talks between the two countries, even though many investors remain skeptical whether the economic giants can bridge their differences over a number of issues, including intellectual property rights and technology transfers.
China’s Vice Premier Liu He is in Washington this week to meet U.S. officials, including Trump.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Tuesday he expected to see significant progress in talks with Chinese officials and that U.S. charges against telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd were a separate issue.
“It seems December was the worst month and since then things might be starting to recover a bit. If we can see more such evidence, market sentiment will be bolstered,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.
“Yet, it’s still not clear how strong any such recovery would be. I would bet markets will be range-bound from here,” he said.
Investors are also looking to the outcome of the Federal Reserve’s rates review later in the day, with expectations policymakers will reinforce their recent dovish stance given signs of a slowdown in the U.S. economy.
In the currency market, the British pound fell 0.67 percent on Tuesday and was last up 0.1 percent at $1.3078, off three-month highs of $1.3218 touched on Friday.
British lawmakers on Tuesday instructed Prime Minister Theresa May to reopen a Brexit treaty with the European Union to replace a controversial Irish border arrangement – and promptly received a flat rejection from Brussels.
“The possibilities of no Brexit and of an extension of the Article 50 deadline have fallen. Markets may be under-estimating the chances that we could have a hard Brexit,” said Takafumi Yamawaki, head of Japan FX and rates research at JPMorgan (NYSE:) Securities.
Other currencies were little moved. The euro changed hands at $1.1438, having risen to a two-week high of $1.14505 on Tuesday.
The dollar was steady against the yen at 109.37 yen.
In contrast, gold rose to 8-1/2-month highs of $1,312 per ounce, helped by flight-to-quality bids.
Oil prices held firm after the United States imposed sanctions on state-owned Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, a move likely to reduce the OPEC member’s crude exports and relieve some global oversupply worries.
futures rose more than 2 percent on Tuesday and last stood at $53.21 per barrel.