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Asia: Markets defy negative Wall Street lead


[HONG KONG] Major Asian markets defied a negative lead from Wall Street on Thursday, with Shanghai performing especially strongly and Japan Post shares soaring again in Tokyo.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index was at a 10-week high by 0230 GMT, extending gains from the previous day when the market rallied more than four per cent on hopes for economic reforms.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange was up 1.03 per cent by 0245 GMT, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong rose 0.27 per cent.

China's ruling Communist party issued guidelines for its 2016-2020 development plan on Tuesday, including calling for liberalisation in its capital markets and foreign exchange regime, following a high-level meeting last week.

"The government has successfully clamped down on short selling," said Francis Cheung, a senior strategist at brokerage CLSA in Hong Kong. "So it is easier for market to go up, especially with anticipation that China will cut rates and do more stimulus." Wall Street had dropped Wednesday after Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen kept the possibility of a lift-off of US interest rates in December on the table.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.28 per cent, while the S&P 500 lost 0.35 per cent and the Nasdaq edged down 0.05 per cent.

In Tokyo, Japan Post stocks skyrocketed for a second day, as investors scrambled to get their hands on one of Japan's best-known companies, with its insurance unit especially in demand.

And Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 1.1 per cent, led by banks and consumer stocks, while Seoul's benchmark KOSPI index declined 0.4 per cent by 0300 GMT.

The US dollar continued to strengthen Thursday after Yellen's comments that if the economy was "performing well" and, if conditions warrant, a rate hike in December "would be a live possibility." After days of gains for emerging market currencies, the Malaysian ringgit, Chinese yuan, South Korean won and Indonesian rupiah were all down against the greenback.

The yen changed hands at 121.44 to the dollar by 0300 GMT, down from 121.55 in late US trade.

The euro was slightly up against the US currency, fetching 1.0870 from 1.0865, and was at 132.01 yen from 132.06 yen.

"The weaker yen will likely boost Japanese stocks at the start, however a weaker yen that comes with the threat of higher interest rates isn't a positive," Mitsushige Akino, executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

"Higher interest rates at a time when the Japanese economy is pointing lower is a negative for Japanese equities." In oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in December was trading 18 cents higher at $46.50 and Brent crude for December was up 25 cents at US$48.83 a barrel at around 0300 GMT.