Asian shares inch up
Asian equities and U.S. stock futures made modest gains on Wednesday as investors seized on Apple Inc's earnings and comments from its Tim Cook that U.S. - China trade tensions were easing, sending Apple shares soaring in after-hours trade.
Investors were relieved that there was no fresh bad news after the iPhone maker shocked financial markets at the start of this month when the news about its rare revenue warning sparked fears that the U.S. - China trade tensions are taking a toll on the tech sector.
This helped to boost optimism around current high-level trade talks between the two countries, even though some investors remain skeptical whether the economic giants can bridge their differences over a number of issues, including technology transfers and intellectual property rights.
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.
Investors are also looking to the outcome of the Federal Reserve's rates review, with expectations that policymakers will reinforce their recent dovish stance given signs of a slowdown in the U.S. economy.
On Tuesday British lawmakers instructed Prime Minister Theresa May to reopen a Brexit treaty with the European Union and resolve a controversial Irish border arrangement issue.
The British pound fell 0.67 percent the same day and was last up 0.1 percent at USD 1.3078, off three-month highs of USD 1.3218 touched on Friday.
Other currencies were little moved. The EURO changed hands at USD 1.1438, having risen to a two-week high of USD 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 USD 1,312 per ounce, helped by flight-to-quality bids.
Oil prices held firm after the US 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.