Tokyo stocks lead Asia gains

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HONG KONG: Asian markets were flat or mostly higher Wednesday, with Tokyo leading the charge in its first day of trading after an extended new year break.

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The gains follow a strong performance in global markets on Tuesday, as investors reacted to bright economic indicators of further growth, particularly in the United States.

The dollar’s gains against the yen also perked up sentiment in Tokyo, as a weaker Japanese currency provided a boost for local exporters.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended up 2.51 percent for its highest finish in over a year.

Shanghai also closed slightly up, led by railway companies following strong manufacturing data released the previous day, dealers said.

Hong Kong, Australian and South Korean shares closed flat.

Europe’s main stock markets also rose at the start of trading Wednesday, after London reached a new high the day before.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average in New York continued to push towards the 20,000 milestone Tuesday.

The Tokyo bourse finished 2016 at its highest year-end close for two decades, boosted by expectations for big government spending under US President-elect Donald Trump to further power the world’s biggest economy.

But experts also called for caution, as Trump’s politics and policies remain uncertain at best.

“Markets have been rallying quite strongly on this notion of fiscal hope but, as we move into the reality of 2017 and what a Trump presidency will actually look like, there is some risk of fiscal disappointment,” Paul Eitelman, a strategist at Russell Investments, told Bloomberg Radio.

“Any disappointment at this point could be a source of downside risk for markets from here, so we’re incrementally being a bit more cautious,” he said.

Oil prices rebounded on bargain buying following sharp falls overnight, but analysts said gains were tempered by a strong dollar and doubts about the impact of an out put cut by producers.

The rise in the US currency on the back of positive economic data made dollar-priced oil more expensive for holders of other units and dented demand.

In individual shares, troubled Japanese autoparts maker Takata jumped more than 17 percent in Tokyo, as investors reacted to reports that it was close to settling a US criminal probe into an exploding airbag scandal.

AFP

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