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Asia: Stocks mostly up, dollar edges lower


[HONG KONG] Most Asian markets advanced Friday on a healthy batch of economic growth data out of the United States but Shanghai sank again after the previous day's sell-off.

The dollar ticked lower following a recent rally, although analysts expect it to continue its advance with expectations for a Federal Reserve interest rate rise as soon as September.

Tokyo added 0.15 per cent, Hong Kong gained 0.62 per cent, and Sydney rose 0.38 per cent, but Shanghai slipped 2.10 per cent as it struggles to recover from a recent plunge.

Seoul, meanwhile, was 0.49 per cent lower.

Confidence was given a shot in the arm by a report from the US Commerce Department Thursday that said the world's top economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.3 per cent in the April-June period, the strongest rate since the third quarter of 2014.

And while the figure was a little below expectations, the department also revised up its estimate on the first quarter of the year - which was hit by severe winter weather - to growth of 0.6 per cent, from a 0.2 per cent contraction.

However, on Wall Street the Dow and S&P 500 were marginally lower while the Nasdaq rose 0.35 per cent.

The news increased the likelihood the Fed will lift rates sooner rather than later.

The dollar dipped Friday to 124.06 yen from 124.15 in New York but Imre Speizer, a senior market strategist at Westpac Banking Corp. in Auckland, tipped it to strengthen down the line.

"The US dollar remains supported by the looming Fed tightening cycle," Mr Speizer said. "As we get closer to that date and get possible clues from speeches by officials over the next few weeks, I expect the dollar to auto-resume its upward trend."

In other forex trade, the euro bought US$1.0941 and 135.66 yen against US$1.0931 and 135.70 yen in New York.

The yen managed to hold up against the greenback despite another round of soft inflation data out of Japan that has fanned talk of more monetary easing by the country's central bank.

The internal affairs ministry said household spending fell 2.0 per cent year-on-year in June against market expectations for an increase after a rise of 4.8 per cent in May.

Core inflation, excluding volatile fresh food prices, was up 0.1 per cent, well short of the Bank of Japan's 2.0 per cent target.

Yasunari Ueno, chief market economist at Mizuho Securities, said: "I can't see when the BoJ will be able reach the 2.0 per cent inflation target at all.

"It appears to be a matter of time before the BoJ adds monetary stimulus." Shanghai stocks continue to be buffeted as government measures at the start of the month to contain a plunge were unable to prevent another round of fierce selling this week.

The benchmark index slumped more than 30 per cent between June 12 and July 8, when Beijing unveiled a series of strict measures to avert a meltdown, which prompted a slight recovery.

However, a below-forecast manufacturing reading last Friday sparked another round of panic - sending shares collapsing 8.48 per cent Monday - among mainland investors. The market is now down 14 per cent over the month.

On oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for September delivery fell 22 cents to US$48.30 and Brent crude for September eased 11 cents to US$53.20 a barrel in morning Asian trade.

Gold fetched US$1,085.47 an ounce compared with US$1,086.80 late Thursday.