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Asia: Stocks edge higher; US dollar, treasuries steady

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[SYDNEY] Asian stocks had a muted start to trading Thursday as concern simmers about an escalation of trade tensions between the US and China. Treasury yields and the US dollar were steady as oil retreated.

Benchmarks edged higher in Japan, while South Korean shares were little changed. Australian stocks rose, cementing gains at an eight-year high.

Futures in Hong Kong pointed to a muted opening. The S&P 500 broke a three-day losing streak and the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced to an all-time high, buoyed by Facebook Inc's rally.

The pound was stable after UK Prime Minister Theresa May won a key vote on Brexit. Exchange-traded funds tracking equities in Argentina and Saudi Arabia climbed after MSCI Inc upgraded the nations to emerging-market status.

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Market voices on:

Financial markets are looking more placid after a tumultuous start to the week triggered by a ratcheting up of trade tensions by US President Donald Trump.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell reiterated a gradual approach to US monetary policy normalisation at a meeting of global central bankers in Portugal.

Elsewhere, oil slipped as a drop in inventories last week came ahead of the much anticipated meeting of Opec later this week.

Facebook reached a record as investors bet the company's Instagram and Messenger units will continue to boost advertising revenue.

Some key events to watch for this week:

- The Bank of England's policy decision is due on Thursday.

- Also on Thursday: US jobless claims and South Korea export data.

- The Opec countries meets in Vienna on Friday.

STOCKS

Japan's Topix index rose 0.1 per cent as of 9.08am in Tokyo.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.5 per cent.

Futures on Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.1 per cent.

S&P 500 futures were up 0.1 per cent.

CURRENCIES

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was flat.

The euro held at US$1.1577.

The pound traded at US$1.3173.

The yen was steady at 110.40 per US dollar.

BONDS

The yield on 10-year Treasuries rose four basis points to 2.94 per cent.

Australia's 10-year bond yield rose two basis points to 2.67 per cent.

COMMODITIES

West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.9 per cent to US$65.69 a barrel.

Gold was steady at US$1,268.92 an ounce, near the weakest in six months.

BLOOMBERG