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Asia stocks mixed, oil touches US$60, Bitcoin flat

[TOKYO] Asian stocks were mixed Wednesday in trading thinned by a holiday-shortened week. Oil prices breached US$60 a barrel for the first time since 2015 after a pipeline blast in Libya.

Japanese equity benchmarks posted slight gains, while Australian stocks advanced after a four-day weekend. South Korean equities dropped, weighed down by industrial companies after the world's No 2 shipbuilder announced a share sale that saw its price tumble as much as 28 per cent.

The US dollar held within recent ranges against the euro and yen.  US shares offered little direction overnight, with a retreat in technology stocks thanks to downgraded Apple Inc. iPhone X sales estimates one of the few narratives emerging in the year's final trading week. Taiwanese stocks ticked higher Wednesday, suggesting those declines have run their course for now.

China's onshore stocks were little changed after a report showed a smaller gain for industrial-company profits last month. The other main release of the day comes from Vietnam, which has ridden an export boom to tiger-economy status. The country reports on fourth-quarter gross domestic product, estimated to show a near-7 per cent growth rate.

Bitcoin appeared to be forming a bottom above US$15,000 after the cryptocurrency endured a week-long tumble from its record above US$19,000, which was hit Dec 18.

Among the key events remaining for investors this week:

  • US consumer confidence and trade data are on the schedule for the holiday-shortened week.
  • Italy's parliament is expected to be dissolved ahead of elections in 2018.
  • Egypt decides on interest rates.

Japan's Topix Index was little changed as of 10:52am Tokyo time, as was the Nikkei 225 Stock Average.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was little changed, while South Korea's Kospi Index was down 0.4 per cent.

Contracts on the S&P 500 Index were little changed after the underlying gauge slipped 0.1 per cent at the close of trading in New York, when the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.3 per cent.

The yen was little changed at 113.28 per US dollar.

The euro was little changed at US$1.1859.

The British pound was at US$1.3373.

Australia's dollar bought 77.30 US cents.

The yield on 10-year Treasuries dipped 1 basis point to 2.47 per cent, just 3 basis points higher than its start for the year.

Australian 10-year government bond yields were at 2.72 per cent, little changed.

Commodities West Texas Intermediate was down 0.2 per cent, at US$59.71 a barrel.

The Bloomberg Commodities Index rose 1.2 per cent Tuesday, approaching its high for the month.

Gold was at US$1,282.02 an ounce after advancing 0.7 per cent Tuesday.