Asia stocks digest meaty gains, sterling starved for love

By Wayne Cole SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian shares snoozed near 18-month highs on Friday as trade thinned in the run-up to Christmas and investors seemed content to digest the chunky gains already made so far this month. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a fraction firmer in early trade, having gained 1.2% for the week so far and almost 5% for the month.

Reuters December 20, 2019 07:06:30 IST
Asia stocks digest meaty gains, sterling starved for love

Asia stocks digest meaty gains sterling starved for love

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian shares snoozed near 18-month highs on Friday as trade thinned in the run-up to Christmas and investors seemed content to digest the chunky gains already made so far this month.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was a fraction firmer in early trade, having gained 1.2% for the week so far and almost 5% for the month.

Japan's Nikkei <.N225> inched up 0.1% after reaching a 14-month top earlier in the week. It was ahead by 2.5% for the month so far. South Korea's market <.KS11> added 0.25% on the day and 5.5% for December.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 held at all-time highs having put on 1.2% for the week.

Sentiment had been bolstered after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States and China would sign their Phase One trade pact in early January.

Mnuchin said it was completely finished and just undergoing a technical "scrub," though Beijing has so far dodged all details of the deal.

The U.S. House of Representatives also overwhelmingly approved a new North American deal that leaves $1.2 trillion in annual U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade flows largely intact.

The S&P 500 hit a sixth straight record high, its longest streak since January 2018, and the Nasdaq climbed for the seventh session in a row. The S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow all notched record closing highs. [.N]

The Dow <.DJI> ended Thursday up 0.49%, while the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 0.45% and the Nasdaq <.IXIC> 0.67%.

The market shrugged off U.S. President Donald Trump's impeachment, as the Republican-controlled Senate is widely expected to keep him in office.

POUND IN PERIL

It was mostly quiet in currencies, though sterling was nursing a grudge after suffering a vicious reversal that left it facing its worst weekly fall since late 2017 at 2.4%.

Early Friday, the pound was huddled at $1.3017 having toppled from a $1.3514 peak when Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his sweeping election victory to revive the risk of a hard Brexit.

"We see the biggest risks being to GBP/USD depreciation over the next two weeks as Brexit preparations take place amidst the most sluggish UK economy in 10 years," said Richard Grace, chief currency strategist at CBA.

"GBP can fall because the trade concerns are taking place at a time when the UK trade deficit is the widest it has been in 10 years, and the current account deficit is at a historically large 5.0% of GDP."

Other currency pairs were little changed on the week with the euro stuck at $1.1124 having found support around $1.1100. The dollar idled at 109.36 yen , having spent the entire week in a tight 10917/109.67 range.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar had edged up 0.2% for the week to 97.393 <.DXY> thanks mainly to the steep drop in sterling.

Spot gold was flat at $1,479.00 per ounce , and up just a fraction for the week so far.

Oil prices consolidated after reaching the highest level in three months, buoyed by falling crude inventories and the easing in U.S.-China trade tensions. [O/R]

Early Friday, U.S. crude had eased back 11 cents to $61.07 a barrel, while Brent crude futures were yet to trade.

(Editing by Stephen Coates)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.