Asian markets mostly higher as Hong Kong extends record run

Most Asian markets resumed their positive start to the year on Friday with Hong Kong extending its record run to 14 days while the euro held gains after the previous day’s jump.

Investors were once again provided a strong lead from Wall Street where all three main indexes advanced to new all-time highs, with energy firms riding a surge in oil prices.

Confidence across world markets is booming on the back of a healthy economic outlook and optimism about corporate profits heading into the latest earnings season.

Hong Kong surged 0.9 percent, supported by flows of cash from mainland Chinese investors attracted by cheaper valuations than at home. The rally has put the Hang Seng Index within two percent of its record high that was set in October 2007.

Shanghai finished 0.1 percent up, an 11th successive gain. Data showed China’s exports and imports jumped last year on the back of a strong global economy, though an increase in its trade surplus with the US raised the possibility of further blowback from Donald Trump, who has often hit out at what he sees as Beijing’s unfair trade practices.

Seoul added 0.3 percent. Singapore climbed 0.4 percent and Taipei put on 0.7 percent. Sydney was marginally higher.

However, Tokyo ended 0.2 percent lower on a stronger yen.

The Japanese unit has strengthened this week after the country’s central bank cut back on its bond-buying stimulus programme.

The dollar fell towards 111 yen briefly Thursday, its lowest since November, with disappointing US factory gate inflation adding downward pressure.

– ‘Big picture’ –
The euro also ticked up against the greenback after minutes from the European Central Bank’s December board meeting showed members were considering altering their guidance on policy in light of the eurozone’s improving economy.

That suggests policymakers are leading towards winding in their own crisis-era stimulus programme, putting it on course to synchronise with the US Federal Reserve, which is already in the process of raising interest rates.

“The big picture is that any shift in communication, whether it happens in March or June or if it’s gradual or hawkish, now seems to be backed by the majority of the governing council, which didn’t seem to be the case in October,” Frederik Ducrozet, an economist at Banque Pictet & Cie in Geneva, told Bloomberg News.

The euro, which had eased slightly this week, bounced back above $1.20 Thursday and was consolidating in Asia.

Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, said in a note: “The ECB minutes caught traders flat-footed as most had shallow expectations from the release” of the minutes.

Oil prices saw small dips after their recent run-up, which saw Brent break the $70 mark Thursday for the first time since late December 2014 thanks to plunging US stockpiles, unrest in key producer Iran and speculation about fresh sanctions on Tehran by the Trump administration.

In early European trade London was flat, Paris rose 0.2 percent and Frankfurt added 0.3 percent.

– Key figures around 0820 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 23,653.82 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.9 percent at 31,412.54 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3428.94 (close)

London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,759.28

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2063 from $1.2030 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3550 from $1.3537

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 111.26 yen from 111.29 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 45 cents at $63.35 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 26 cents at $69.00 per barrel

New York – DOW: UP 0.8 percent at 25,574.73 (close)

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