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Asia: Stocks near six-week high as oil above US$50; kiwi weakens


[SYDNEY] Asian stocks held near a six-week high before Chinese trade data as crude oil traded above US$50 a barrel and South Korea's won strengthened.

Benchmark share gauges were little changed in Japan and South Korea, while Australia's fell. Equity-index futures for China and Hong Kong advanced and contracts on the S&P 500 were steady after the US measure closed within 1 per cent of its all-time high.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was near a one- month low and oil maintained gains from the last session, when it closed above US$50 a barrel in New York for the first time since July 2015.

With global stocks trading near the highest levels of 2016 and the Federal Reserve grappling with mixed economic reports as it prepares to increase interest rates, China's release is forecast to show tepid global demand.

The World Bank cut its 2016 global growth forecast to 2.4 per cent from 2.9 per cent, citing sagging corporate investment in advanced economies and the impact of falling commodity prices on emerging-market exporters.

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"China trade data is going to be the big one today," said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based chief market strategist at IG Ltd. "We're in this situation where central banks are engineering continued lower yields and tighter credit spreads, and equities still look compelling on a relative basis." Japan announced a smaller current-account surplus for April than economists projected.

China is forecast to report a 4 per cent decline in May exports on Wednesday, the nation's last trading of the week owing to a holiday, and Australia has home-loans data coming. South Africa is due to report on its first-quarter economic growth and the UK will release details of its industrial output in April.

The US will report on US job openings for April and Brazil's central bank is expected to leave its benchmark interest rate at a nine-year high following a policy meeting.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed as of 9:12 am in Tokyo, after recording its highest close since April 26 on Tuesday. South Korea's Kospi held near its highest level in more than a month and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 retreated from a one-week high.

Futures on Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.2 per cent and contracts on the FTSE China A50 were up 0.3 per cent.

New Zealand's dollar fell 0.4 per cent versus the greenback, leading declines among 31 major currencies. The won gained 0.4 per cent, making it the best performer, and the yen rose 0.3 per cent.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil traded little changed at US$50.41 per barrel. US crude stockpiles are estimated to have fallen for a third week, trimming a glut. Crude has surged about 90 per cent from a 12-year low in February amid unexpected disruptions and a continuous slide in US output, which is under pressure from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries' policy of pumping without limits.


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