Asia shares rise on U.S.-China trade deal optimism, Aussie tumbles

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Asia shares steady after Fed minutes, Aussie rallies

According to Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, "what really killed" the rally in the Australian dollar yesterday was a Reuters report that China was banning the import of Australian coal in the northern port of Dalian.

News that Dalian, one of China's biggest ports, banned imports of coal from Australia also weighed on the Aussie.

But Canberra can't explain why ships are floating outside certain Chinese ports still laden with Australian coal - other than to say these things have happened before and everything ultimately returns to normal.

Mr Birmingham urged caution on the issue as he added: "It's important to reiterate. that we went through a period of some similarity late last year but when all that was done and dusted both the value and volume of our coal exports in that fourth quarter last year to China were significantly higher".

China, which has a history of using trade as leverage, has been seeking to counter resistance in several nations to using Huawei in 5G networks.

News of the ban sent the Australian dollar tumbling in late afternoon trade.

Australian officials said there was "confusion" over the situation, and they were consulting their Chinese counterparts.

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Coal is one of Australia's biggest imports, and with China taking up to a quarter of orders this has heightened concerns for the Australian economy.

Shares in Australian coal miners exposed to China fell on Friday.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said there was "no basis to believe that there is a ban" on Australian imports.

It comes as major ports elsewhere in China prolong clearing times for Australian coal to at least 40 days.

Australian trade officials said they had been notified of recent industry concerns about market access.

The media cited an editorial in the China Daily which said Prime Minister Scott Morrison was "irresponsible" when he alluded to Beijing being behind the cyber attack on the Australian parliament.

Another mill source whose shipment recently arrived at one of the ports under Dalian's jurisdiction said there was no certainty about when it would be released by customs authorities.

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"It is impossible to force China to stabilise the currency and to insist that it embraces genuine markets, which is the other key thrust of the U.S. demands", says Michael Every, a strategist at Rabobank.

Wood Mackenzie senior consultant Yu Zhai said China's seaborne metallurgical coal imports were to reduce by 3Mt in 2019 as a result of China's coal import restriction. Coal imports from Russian Federation and Indonesia will not be affected.

"People should be careful about leaping to conclusions about this".

Some investors linked the restrictions to China's trade war with the US.

"This is not the first time that on occasion local ports make decisions about these matters", he told reporters in Auckland, where he is meeting with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern.

Relations between the two countries initially started crumbling when Australia accused China of meddling with its political and domestic affairs. The euro/dollar exchange rate, stuck within recent ranges, traded quietly as investors waited for cues on where U.S. monetary policy is headed after the Fed's recent dovish tilt.

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