Asia: Stocks mixed, dollar pushes towards 115 yen

[HONG KONG] Asian markets were mixed Thursday following a record close on Wall Street, while the dollar pushed towards 115 yen for the first time in seven years, after Republicans took control of the US Congress.

Focus will now be on the release Friday of US jobs data, which will give the latest snapshot of the economy and give an idea about the Federal Reserve's plans for interest rates.

Tokyo stocks rose 0.37 per cent, as last week's Bank of Japan monetary easing announcement helped the Nikkei to a fifth straight gain that has seen it clock up more than 10 per cent.

Seoul gained 0.18 per cent, Hong Kong dipped 0.10 per cent and Sydney lost 0.11 per cent while Shanghai was flat.

US shares jumped after Republicans ousted Democrats as the main party in the Senate for the first time in eight years, raising hopes the gridlock that has paralysed Washington for years could be broken.

Analysts said the news would boost the prospects for tax reform, a key oil pipeline and immigration reform. Democratic President Barack Obama said he was "eager to work with the new Congress to make the next two years (of his presidency) as productive as possible".

Traders also welcomed data from payroll company ADP showing the US private sector added 230,000 jobs in October, above the 220,000 projected by analysts.

The Dow jumped 0.58 per cent to a new record, while the S&P 500 also hit an all-time high after tacking on 0.57 per cent. The Nasdaq was marginally lower, losing 0.06 per cent.

The dollar extended its rally against the yen, which was sparked by the BoJ's surprise decision Friday to widen its already huge monetary base, effectively printing more money.

In morning Tokyo trade the greenback was at a seven-year high of 114.95 yen, up from 114.69 yen in New York Wednesday afternoon and sharply higher than the 114.06 yen in Asia earlier Wednesday.

The yen was also soft against the euro. The single currency sat at 143.08 yen against 143.18 yen in US trade.

The euro was worth US$1.2483 compared with US$1.2484 in New York.

The common currency continues to face pressure after the European Commission this week slashed its 2014 and 2015 growth forecasts for the eurozone.

The European Central Bank, which holds a monetary policy meeting Thursday, is expected to hold fire on new moves after recently unleashing radical measures to prop up the ailing eurozone.

On oil markets, crude futures added to Wednesday's gains that came after a US inventories report showed a smaller-than-expected increase in supplies.

West Texas Intermediate for December delivery rose 18 cents to US$78.86 while Brent crude for December was up 21 cents to US$83.16.

Wednesday saw WTI, the US benchmark, jump US$1.49 and Brent climb 13 cents after the report.

Gold was US$1,143.52 an ounce from US$1,148.34 late Wednesday.


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