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Asia bourses modestly higher as currencies stall

Monday 04:30 GMT

Overview

Stock markets across Asia were mostly higher though currencies struggled to make much headway in a subdued session.

Hot topic

The US market is closed on Monday for the President’s Day public holiday.

On Friday the S&P 500 climbed 0.2 per cent to a record high, capping a week in which the FTSE All World index topped its previous record peak from May 2015. US economic data last week came in generally better than expected, boosting spirits.

What to watch

The UK pound may come into focus later in the day as the House of Lords starts debating — and is likely to attach conditions to — the legislation giving Prime Minister Theresa May the power to trigger the country’s exit from the EU.

Sterling was up as much as 0.3 per cent in Asian trade before dropping back to be flat at $1.2417.

Equities

Japan’s Topix benchmark was up 0.1 per cent, erasing an early decline. SoftBank climbed as much as 3.3 per cent in the wake of reports on Friday that the Japanese telco, which is the majority owner of US wireless carrier Sprint, might approach T-Mobile US about a possible merger.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was up 0.3 per cent, while in China the Shanghai Composite gained 0.8 per cent and the tech-focused Shenzhen Composite added 0.3 per cent.

Bucking the trend, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.3 per cent as investors reacted to disappointing results from major companies such as Brambles and WorleyParsons.

Forex

The US dollar index was 0.1 per cent lower at 100.9. The index, which tracks the value of the greenback against a basket of global currencies, jumped by the most in a month on Friday after Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve chair, warned that it might be “unwise” if the central bank waited too long before raising interest rates again.

The Japanese yen was 0.2 per cent weaker at ¥113.08 per dollar, weighed down by data showing exports grew less than forecast in January. The Australian dollar was up 0.1 per cent against its US counterpart.

Commodities

Commodity prices were clawing back from earlier declines. Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, was up 0.1 per cent at $55.85 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate added 0.1 per cent to $53.43.

Gold was flat at $1,234.65 an ounce.

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