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Asia: Markets mostly higher after US, Europe gains

Monday, March 23, 2015 - 10:43
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Asian markets mostly advanced Monday following rallies on Wall Street and in Europe, while the dollar continued to struggle after the Federal Reserve dampened expectations for an early interest rate hike.

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly advanced Monday following rallies on Wall Street and in Europe, while the dollar continued to struggle after the Federal Reserve dampened expectations for an early interest rate hike.

Tokyo rose 0.83 per cent, Hong Kong gained 0.37 per cent, Seoul added 0.10 per cent and Shanghai was up 0.63 per cent, marking a ninth successive rise. Sydney eased 0.34 per cent.

With few catalysts to drive business early in the week investors took their lead from their US counterparts, who have been cheered by the Fed's dovish comments on rates.

While the central bank opened the door Wednesday for a rise this year, it said there were still weaknesses in the US economy, including low inflation and soft manufacturing. The news sent global shares soaring and the dollar tumbling.

In New York on Friday the Dow jumped 0.94 per cent, the S&P 500 climbed 0.90 per cent and the Nasdaq added 0.68 per cent to end above 5,000 points for the first time since March 2000 and for only the fourth time ever.

European markets also surged, helped by Greece's promise to submit fresh bailout reform plans. London's FTSE closed above 7,000 points for the first time in its history, while the Paris CAC 40 is at levels not seen since early 2008.

In currency trading on Monday the dollar bought 120.01 yen in early trade, down from 120.11 yen in New York and well off the 120.71 yen in Tokyo earlier Friday.

The euro bought US$1.0800 compared with US$1.0821 but is well up from the levels below US$1.05 seen at the start of last week. The single currency was also at 129.62 yen against 129.98 yen.

"The overriding factor for the Fed is whether they can afford to overstimulate the economy or raise rates too soon," Tim Schroeders, a portfolio manager at Pengana Capital Ltd. in Melbourne, told Bloomberg News.

"They can't be too aggressive in raising rates as the underlying US economy isn't as strong. Equities will continue to trend higher but as valuations become stretched, markets will be more vulnerable to a pullback." Oil prices drifted lower again owing to ongoing concerns about a global supply glut.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for May delivery fell 60 cents to US$45.97 and Brent crude for May tumbled 57 cents to US$54.75 in mid-morning trade.

Gold fetched US$1,183.31 against US$1,172.01 late Friday.

AFP