Most Asian stocks rose on Thursday as the yen’s strong trend paused and oil prices rebounded from an overnight selloff. However, overall gains remained muted ahead of this week’s French Presidential vote. Opinion polls suggest that the election will be a close call.
Chinese shares snapped a four-day losing streak as investors lapped up stocks that would benefit from the newly-launched Xiongan economic zone.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite index inched up 1.41 points or 0.04 percent to 3,172.10. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 207 points or 0.87 percent at 24,044 in late trade, snapping a three-day losing streak.
Japanese shares ended little changed as caution set in ahead of the upcoming French presidential election on Sunday. The Nikkei average ended down 1.71 points or 0.01 percent to 18,430.49 while the broader Topix index closed 0.09 percent higher at 1,472.81.
Energy majors Inpex and Japan Petroleum slid 1-2 percent as oil prices dipped toward $50 a barrel. Camera maker Canon climbed 2.5 percent ahead of its financial results due next week while testing equipment maker Advantest rallied 4.5 percent. Toshiba, which is undergoing business restructuring, soared 5.3 percent.
In economic releases, Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 614.722 billion yen in March, the Ministry of Finance said – down 17.5 percent from a year earlier. The headline figure topped forecasts for a surplus of 605.6 billion yen. Exports climbed an annual 12.0 percent, beating forecasts for an increase of 6.2 percent, while imports added an annual 15.8 percent.
Australian shares bounced back from three-week lows, led by gains in telecom and financial stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 rose 17.40 points or 0.30 percent to 5,821.40, while the broader All Ordinaries index closed 14.50 points or 0.25 percent higher at 5,854.40.
Bargain hunters chased telecom stocks, with Telstra and TPG Telecom climbing nearly 3 percent each. Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB rose between 0.6 percent and 1.2 percent after recent heavy losses.
Mining giant Rio Tinto slipped 0.4 percent as it maintained its iron ore shipment guidance for 2017 despite weakening ore prices. Gold miners Newcrest, Northern Star and Regis Resources lost over 1 percent each after gold prices fell as much as 1 percent the previous day.
Woodside Petroleum dropped 1.2 percent and Santos fell as much as 2.5 percent after oil prices tumbled almost four percent overnight to hit a two-week low on data showing a surprise increase in gasoline inventories.
On the economic front, a quarterly survey showed that Australia’s business conditions improved in the first quarter, driven by an increase in profitability and employment. The NAB’s current conditions index rose 2 points to +8 while the business confidence index held steady at 6.
Seoul shares rose to close near their their highest level in two weeks amid easing tensions over North Korea. The Kospi average gained 10.75 points or 0.50 percent to finish at 2,149.15, its…