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Asia: Markets soar again, led by Tokyo

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[HONG KONG] Japanese stocks led a broad rally on Asian markets Thursday, posting a fourth straight gain as investors took heart from another record close on Wall Street, while the pound rose ahead of a key central bank meeting.

The Nikkei index has now wiped out all the losses sustained after Britain's shock vote to leave the EU, while the yen sank further as traders await details on promised government economic stimulus.

The gains extend a global advance this week fuelled by talk of growth-boosting measures from central banks and governments around the world.

Tokyo has been the stand-out performer with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected to unveil a new round of spending as the world's number three economy limps along.

The Nikkei 225 ended one per cent higher, helped by another fall in the value of the yen, which has been buffeted by the prospect that more stimulus cash will be flooding financial markets.

The dollar bought 105.61 yen in the afternoon, up from 104.52 yen in New York Wednesday. Gaming giant Nintendo ended another 16 per cent higher thanks to the huge success of its Pokemon Go game. The firm has now soared more than 60 per cent since last Thursday's close.

However, analysts say there is still some lingering nervousness on trading floors.

"Investors remain very skittish and it won't take much to rattle sentiment," James Audiss, a senior investment adviser at Shaw and Partners in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.

"We're watching the yen-dollar rate really closely." The pound rose to US$1.3213 from US$1.3144 in New York, hours before a Bank of England policy meeting many expect will see a cut in interest rates from an already record low 0.5 per cent to 0.25 per cent, or even zero, as it tries to plot a course after the Brexit vote.

It is also well up from the levels below US$1.28 touched last week, thanks to the surprisingly quick change of leadership of the ruling Conservative party, with Theresa May taking over from David Cameron as prime minister.

The news provided traders with some much-needed stability after Cameron's resignation immediately after losing the June 23 referendum.

Hong Kong rose 0.7 per cent in the afternoon but Shanghai ended down 0.2 per cent, a day after China unveiled data showing imports and exports both fell last month, reinforcing worries about the slowing economy.

The figures bode ill for Friday's release of second-quarter economic growth figures, which is expected to come in at a seven-year low of 6.6 percent, according to a survey by AFP.

China's yuan dropped to its lowest in nearly six years on the back of the trade data. The unit was at 6.6878 against the dollar on Thursday - just off levels last reached in November 2010.

"All eyes are on China's economic data for the second quarter - if the numbers turn out to be weak, the yuan may depreciate beyond 6.7 per dollar," Andy Ji, a foreign-exchange strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said.

Elsewhere, Sydney edged up 0.4 per cent and Seoul added 0.2 per cent, while Wellington and Taipei also posted gains.

On Wall Street, the Dow and S&P 500 posted new records after a Federal Reserve report described the US economy as still modestly growing with signs of a slowdown in consumer spending.

Oil prices rebounded following a 4.5 per cent slump Wednesday caused by a smaller-than-forecast drop in US inventories.

In afternoon Asian trade West Texas Intermediate was up 1.4 per cent at US$45.37 and Brent added 1.2 per cent to $46.79.

In early European trade, London added 0.9 per cent, Paris put on 1 per cent and Frankfurt surged 1.4 per cent.

AFP