Asia markets mostly up, dollar rises on rate hike bets


HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly rose on Thursday, with Tokyo lifted by a stronger dollar as investors position for an expected US rate hike and Shanghai extending a recent rally to six sessions.

The euro also got a lift as Greece took another step closer to securing a bailout after lawmakers agreed to more tough austerity measures.

Tokyo rose 0.44 percent, or 90.28 points, to 20,683.95 and Shanghai jumped 2.43 percent, or 97.87 points to 4,123.92 while Hong Kong added 0.46 percent, or 116.23 points, to 25,398.85.

Seoul ended marginally higher, adding 0.34 points to 2,065.07 but Sydney lost 0.43 percent, or 24.3 points, to close at 5,590.3.

After Wednesday’s losses, the dollar resumed its upward trajectory following a strong batch of housing data that reinforced expectations that the Federal Reserve will lift rates soon.

Official figures showed sales of existing homes in the US surged in June to their highest level in more than eight years and prices hit a record high.

“It’s not determined yet whether the US rate hikes will be in September or December, but the housing data strengthens the case for a September hike a little,” Mitsushige Akino, executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co., told Bloomberg News.

In Tokyo, the dollar bought 124.04 yen against 123.96 yen in New York.

The euro advanced after Greek lawmakers passed legislation on more reforms needed to help unlock a huge international bailout. The bill won 230 votes out of the 298 members of parliament present, following hours of debate.

The single currency fetched $1.0937 and 135.64 yen, against $1.0926 and 135.44 yen.

Shanghai rallies
Traders are awaiting a Fed meeting next week to find out what its plans are for monetary policy.

Despite the upbeat data, US stocks slid for a second day after disappointing earnings from Apple and Microsoft raised concerns about the current reporting season, denting the broader market.

The Dow fell 0.38 percent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.24 percent and the Nasdaq sank 0.70 percent.

In China, traders were cheered by reports that the state-backed China Securities Finance Corp.—tasked with restoring stability to the market with access to hundreds of billions of dollars—has denied reducing its holdings in listed companies.

The government earlier this month unveiled a slew of measures to prevent a market meltdown after shares plunged more than 30 percent between June 12 and July 8, wiping trillions off valuations.

A stronger dollar is also putting downward pressure on commodity prices.

Oil prices were mixed Thursday but continue to struggle after a US energy report showed stockpiles increasing, indicating soft demand, while the stronger dollar also makes it more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in September was up one cent to $49.20 and Brent crude for September fell 13 cents to $56.

And gold was sitting at five-year lows, with the expected US rate hike attracting investors away from the safe-haven metal in search of better returns.

Bullion fetched $1,099.50 an ounce compared with $1,093.46 late Wednesday.



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