Wednesday, 5 April 2017

China holds up Asia stocks; oil gains on North Sea outage

Asian stocks edged up on Wednesday, helped by a bounce in Chinese shares, though investors held off from making big bets before a highly-anticipated summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping gets underway on Thursday.

European stocks were set to follow Asia's steady lead with index futures pointing to a slightly higher start.

Chinese construction shares were among the top gainers after Beijing on Saturday announced plans to build Xiongan New Area, modeled on the Shenzhen special economic zone next to Hong Kong that helped kickstart China's economic reforms in 1980.

"This is a very headline-driven market and the only source of optimism is the new economic zone news over the weekend - but that is unlikely to be sustainable," said Conita Hung, an independent market strategist in Hong Kong.

Shares in more than 30 listed companies seen likely to benefit from the new zone jumped by the 10 percent daily trade limit.

Mainland markets .SSEC reopened on Wednesday for trading after a long weekend and outperformed regional bourses, rising more than 1 percent. Hong Kong stocks .HSI gave up early gains and were flat on the day.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.1 percent, edging back towards a 19-month high hit on March. 30. India's shares .NSEI opened at a record high before retreating.

Energy-related shares also offered some support to investors as oil prices rose on Tuesday thanks to an unplanned production outage in the North Sea and growing concerns about diminishing U.S. oil stocks.

U.S. crude CLc1 rose for a second consecutive session to its highest levels in more than a month at $51.37 per barrel on Wednesday.

Still, investors remained broadly cautious with safe-haven assets such as gold and Japanese yen remaining well supported before the landmark Trump-Xi summit on Thursday and Friday.

It will be their first face-to-face meeting since Trump took office on Jan. 20, with trade and security issues set to feature prominently. The Korean Peninsula has been a notable hot spot of geopolitical tensions, with North Korea firing a medium-range ballistic missile from its east coast into the sea on the eve of the summit. and

"Markets are really on hold at the moment," said Ric Spooner, Chief market strategist at CMC markets, adding that investors are looking to catalysts from the Trump-Xi meeting as well as the U.S. earnings season.Gold held near a one-month high at $1,254.45 per ounce, rising nearly 4.7 percent in the last three weeks.

Major currencies traded in a narrow range ahead of the release of minutes from the Fed March meeting in which it raised interest rates, and before the big U.S. jobs report on Friday.

The greenback got some help from Japanese importers on a 'gotobi' date - the fifth day of the month and dates that are multiple of five - on which accounts are traditionally settled.

The dollar held firm at 110.61 yen  against the Japanese currency.

"Today, there is real demand for the dollar on 'gotobi,' so its downside should be limited," said Kaneo Ogino, director at foreign exchange research firm Global-info Co in Tokyo.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six trade-weighted peers, was broadly flat at 100.52. The euro  was a shade stronger at $1.06795.

Bonds came in for some profit-taking after yields fell in the previous sessions. Yields on two-year U.S. Treasury bonds rose to 1.26 percent after hitting a six-week low of 1.226 percent on Monday.

Reference: Saikat Chatterjee

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