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Asia: Tokyo recovers as markets see tentative gains

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[HONG KONG] Tokyo stocks rallied on Thursday after three days of losses, leading a cautious recovery in Asian markets with technology firms seeing some much-needed buying.

However, while traders managed to staunch the recent sell-off across the region several issues continue to dog sentiment, the latest being the repercussions of Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Asian markets plunged on Wednesday led by tech firms as investors cashed out following a year-long surge in the sector, while energy firms were also hit by worries about commodities demand.

However, strong gains in big name firms including Amazon, Facebook and Google parent Alphabet provided some buying impetus for the sector in Asia.

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Tencent jumped 1.7 per cent and Sony rose 0.6 per cent while Samsung was 0.5 per cent higher, although ongoing worries about further selling kept a cap on gains. But energy firms, which also dived Wednesday, suffered again after a plunge in oil prices overnight fuelled by disappointing US stockpiles data.

On broader markets Tokyo ended the morning session 1.3 per cent higher, while Hong Kong added 0.2 per cent - the two benchmark indexes had plunged around two percent on Wednesday.

Sydney was up 0.6 per cent and Singapore put on 0.1 per cent but Shanghai shed 0.4 per cent and Seoul sipped 0.3 per cent.

"Asia equity investors found themselves standing in a sea of pain at yesterday's market close and are likely breathing a sigh of relief that both EU and US equity investors appear a bit more level-headed for the time being," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at Oanda.

After a blockbuster year for most global markets - helped by bets on Mr Trump's promise to cut taxes and ramp up spending - geopolitical worries and dealers winding down for the year's end have put them on course for a painful December.

BITCOIN SOARS

Mr Trump's controversial decision on Jerusalem drew swift global condemnation and fanned fears about the overall prospects for stability in the Middle East.

That followed news this week that one of Mr Trump's former close advisers had admitted lying to investigators in a probe into Russian meddling in the US election, putting the probe closer to the White House.

Britain's struggles to hammer out a deal with the EU on the Irish border question has left Brexit talks in limbo, meaning the second phase of the negotiations - on trade - cannot go ahead.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been given a deadline of the end of this week to resolve outstanding issues in order to draft an agenda in time for a crucial EU summit on December 14-15.

The issue continues to pressure the pound and some analysts have speculated that May's government could collapse over the issue.

Bitcoin charged to a new record above US$14,000 as investors piled into the cryptocurrency, triggering fresh warnings of a bubble.

The digital unit has risen 20-fold since January and on Thursday hit a peak of US$14,400, just a day after breaching US$12,000.

"Bitcoin now seems like a charging train with no brakes," said Shane Chanel, from Sydney-based ASR Wealth Advisers. "There is an unfathomable amount of new participants piling into the cryptocurrency market." But he warned: "Once the hype slows down, we will most certainly see some sort of correction."

AFP

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