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Asia: Markets end week on quiet note as US healthcare bill returns

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[HONG KONG] Asian markets limped into the weekend, with energy firms still struggling after a bruising few days, while investors eye Donald Trump's revised healthcare bill hoping its success will open the way for his economic agenda.

Crude enjoyed a rare positive day on Thursday after hefty selling that sent it to a 10-month low, but the gains were small change as concerns over a global supply glut and US production overshadow output cuts by Opec and Russia.

The sharp losses - oil is down around 25 per cent from its recent highs seen in January - has bloodied energy firms and, despite another pick-up in the commodity, they continue to struggle.

In Hong Kong CNOOC and PetroChina were in retreat, while Sydney-listed Woodside Petroleum and Inpex in Tokyo were also down.

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Market voices on:

"Falling oil prices continue to temper sentiment in global macro markets and while the Nervous Nellies take solace as oil prices base overnight, don't get too comfortable as the oil patch narrative will likely be the primary catalyst in the coming months," said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA.

Tokyo's Nikkei ended the morning marginally lower, while Shanghai and Sydney each lost 0.1 per cent, Singapore fell 0.3 per cent and Wellington was off 0.2 per cent. Seoul was barely changed.

However, Hong Kong edged up 0.3 per cent.

Traders are tracking events in Washington where Republican Senators unveiled a revised healthcare bill to unpick Obamacare, which market players hope will be able to pass through Congress.

Markets went south earlier this year when an initial draft failed at the first hurdle as Trump was unable to win enough support even in his own party - fuelling concerns about his plans for other policies such as tax and infrastructure spending.

Republicans hold 52 out of 100 seats in the Senate and the latest, if still controversial, bill is designed to find an agreement between the conservative wing and more moderate Republicans.

"(The) Senate's health care bill is ready for a vote," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

"That the GOP and president need this is no understatement politically. Because of the nuances of US budgetary policy and rules, the resolution to health care is a prerequisite to president Trumps tax plans.

"Or at least they become more problematic to structure if health care is not resolved."

AFP

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