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Asian markets see modest gains as US takes a break

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Hong Kong, Nov 22 (AFP): Asian equities chalked up modest gains Thursday in light trading ahead of the US Thanksgiving holiday, following a rebound in energy and tech stocks on Wall Street.

But analysts cautioned the tepid uplift in New York Wednesday should not be interpreted as a sign of the start of a recovery from the recent carnage on global stock markets.
Investor sentiment remains fragile following the volatility that has swept markets since October, while the OECD has warned that the world economy has peaked and faces a slowdown as it confronts the Trump administration’s trade war and tighter monetary conditions.
The dollar slipped against the euro, the pound and the yen amid reports the Federal Reserve may pause future interest-rate hikes.
Crude prices resumed their downward trajectory Thursday, after a brief recovery on Wednesday.
The commodity has fallen by almost 30 percent from four-year highs touched at the start of October. Oil analysts attribute the pullback to high supply as well as a weakening global growth outlook.
“This half-hearted recovery effort should not be confused with anything other than pre-holiday scramble doing little more than what amounted to chasing oil prices,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA.
“Markets have been remarkably muted, even by holiday standards.”
He added the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping spree would be “the ultimate litmus test of US consumer confidence heading into the holiday season”.
Ahead of a Friday holiday in Japan, the Nikkei rose 0.65 percent as investors took heart from the weakening yen.
However, fresh data suggested the world’s third-largest economy is continuing to struggle in its years-long battle with deflation.

– Bitter row –

Inflation in Japan stood at one percent in October, unchanged from the previous month, according to government data.
Japan has battled deflation for many years and the central bank‘s ultra-loose monetary policy appears to have had limited impact.
Late last month, the Bank of Japan again revised down inflation forecasts, in the latest sign it had failed to make headway towards its two-percent target despite years of massive monetary easing.
Shares in Nissan rose 0.77 percent ahead of its board meeting that will propose the sacking of disgraced chairman Carlos Ghosn, after his spectacular arrest for financial misconduct sent shockwaves through the car industry and the business world.
The scandal has sparked questions over whether the alliance of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors can survive without Ghosn, seen as the glue holding together his fractious creation, which globally employs around 450,000 people.
Elsewhere, Hong Kong ended the day with modest gains and Shanghai closed slightly down, while Sydney was the standout regional performer, gaining 0.9 percent. Shares in Singapore were up even as the trade-reliant city-state braces for slower economic growth next year as demand in key markets in Asia weakens.
In early trade in Europe Thursday, London dropped 0.2 percent while both Paris and Frankfurt slid 0.3 percent. Bourses had staged a sharp recovery Wednesday even as the EU, as expected, officially rejected Italy’s big-spending budget, clearing the path for unprecedented sanctions and deepening a bitter row with Rome’s populist government.
However, reports said Italy’s government may be open to budget revisions as the European Union took a first step toward imposing fines on the country.

– Key figures around 0820 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 21,646.55 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent 26,019.41 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 2,645.43 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1405 from $1.1385 at 2200 GMT
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2788 from $1.2777
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.97 yen from 113.04 yen
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 42 cents at $54.21 per barrel
Oil – Brent Crude: DOWN 55 cents at $62.93 per barrel
New York – Dow: FLAT at 24,464.69 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,031.49

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