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Asia: Shares edge higher, pound stumbles on Brexit drama

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Asian stocks edged higher on Monday as Chinese shares reversed early losses due to hopes for progress in resolving the US-China trade war and expectations for greater investment inflows into Hong Kong.

[TOKYO] Asian stocks edged higher on Monday as Chinese shares reversed early losses due to hopes for progress in resolving the US-China trade war and expectations for greater investment inflows into Hong Kong.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.19 per cent. Chinese shares rose 0.13 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.28 per cent.

The pound slipped from a five-month high against the dollar and the euro after the British parliament forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek a delay to an Oct 31 deadline for Britain's departure from the bloc.

The vote for an extension dealt a blow to optimism that a deal agreed last week would ensure Brexit happens with little economic disruption.

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Oil futures fell as lingering economic growth concerns and excess supplies of crude prompted speculators to trim their long positions.

Chinese vice-premier Liu He said on Friday that China will work with the United States to address each other's concerns, and that stopping the trade war would be good for both sides and the world.

Shares in Hong Kong also got a lift after Chinese bourses revised rules to allow mainland investors to buy Hong Kong-listed dual-class shares for the first time.

"We've had some positive news from Liu, and allowing Chinese investors direct access to dual-listed Hong Kong shares is a another positive," said Sean Darby, global equity strategist at Jefferies in Hong Kong.

"There is still a lot of money on the sidelines, and there are only eight or nine weeks left to put that money to work before we end the year. I expect markets to remain bid."

US stock futures rose 0.27 per cent in Asia as investors brace for high-profile earnings this week from Microsoft, Amazon.com and others.

The S&P 500 fell 0.4 per cent on Friday partly due to worries about fallout from the US-China trade war.

A 15-month long trade war between the United States and China has shown few signs of a durable resolution being reached despite several rounds of talks.

Financial markets have been whipsawed over this period as a steady increase in tit-for-tat tariffs have slowed global trade and raised the risk of recession for some countries.

Underscoring the damage, Japan's exports fell in September for the 10th straight month, while South Korea's exports for the first 20 days of October dived 19.5 per cent year-on-year, data on Monday showed.

Hong Kong shares erased early losses to rise 0.26 per cent.

Chinese bourses on Friday revised rules that would allow Hong Kong-listed dual-class shares to be included in the Stock Connect scheme for the first time, potentially benefiting popular tech companies such as Xiaomi Corp and Meituan Dianping.

The rule change, which will take effect on Oct 28, could be a positive for Hong Kong shares, which have been battered during months of often violent protest against Chinese rule of the former British colony.

The pound fell 0.7 per cent to US$1.2911 and was off about 0.4 per cent to 86.46 pence per euro.

The British government insists Brexit will take place on Oct 31, but uncertainty over how British lawmakers will respond could weigh on sentiment for sterling.

The leader of the House of Commons says the government plans to put the new Brexit deal to a debate and vote on Monday, but it is unclear if the speaker of the House will let this happen.

Elsewhere in the currency markets, the dollar edged 0.1 per cent higher to US$1.1157 per euro but held steady at 108.49 yen.

US crude dipped 0.24 per cent to US$53.65 a barrel. Brent crude fell 0.34 per cent to US$59.22 per barrel.

Money managers cut their net long US crude futures and options positions in the week to Oct 15, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said on Friday.

Long bets on US crude have dropped sharply in the last two weeks after a spate of weak economic figures worldwide fanned concerns about global energy demand.

Treasury prices fell in Asia. The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 1.7554 per cent.

Gold, often considered safe-haven asset, was little changed at US$1,490.12 per ounce. 

REUTERS