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Asia: Stocks fluctuate as crude rebound buoys energy producers


[SINGAPORE] Asian stocks swung between gains and losses, after the regional benchmark index dropped to a one-month low, as energy companies surged with a rebound in oil while utilities slid.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell less than 0.1 per cent to 124.34 as of 9:14 am in Tokyo, after rising as much as 0.1 per cent. Japan's Topix index fluctuated as the yen traded near a 1 1/2-year high. After a rally in risk assets since mid- February, investors are turning cautious, with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde highlighting greater risks to global growth amid middling data out of some of the world's biggest economies.

"In an environment where global growth is in question, it's no surprise that we might see some market weakness," Martin Lakos, a Sydney-based strategist at Macquarie Private Wealth, said by phone.

"There's enough in front of us for the markets to get nervous about. We see that growth is below par but we're not seeing recession around the corner. Central banks are working very hard to support growth."

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South Korea's Kospi index added 0.4 per cent, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.2 per cent. New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 Index fell 0.3 per cent.

Markets in China and Hong Kong have yet to start trading.

China Futures FTSE China A50 Index futures fell 0.3 per cent in their most recent trading, while those for the Hang Seng Index added 0.1 per cent. The Shanghai Composite Index climbed 1.5 per cent to a three-month high on Tuesday as technology and industrial companies led gains amid signs the world's second-largest economy is stabilizing.

Gauges of services industries in China and India are due Wednesday, along with data on Malaysian trade and New Zealand house prices. Taiwan returns from a holiday to an update on foreign reserves, while markets in Thailand are closed.

E-mini futures on the S&P 500 Index gained 0.3 per cent. The underlying US equity benchmark index slipped one per cent on Tuesday. The rally that lifted the S&P 500 as much as 13 per cent from a 22-month low in February has started to lose momentum, with sentiment shifting as investors assess whether central banks can fend off weakness in the global economy. The US central bank releases the minutes from its latest meeting on Wednesday.

US crude solidified its rebound, climbing a second day as concern eased over a prospective deal among producers to freeze output. Contracts for May delivery climbed as much as 2.5 per cent on Wednesday.


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