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Asian stocks hover around three year highs, dollar gains further strength

Monday, 28 July 2014 - 8:47am IST | Place: TOKYO | Agency: Reuters

Asian stocks shrugged off a drop in Wall Street and hovered near three-year highs on Monday, with China taking the lead after data showed a robust jump in profits earned by industrial firms in the world's second-largest economy.

The dollar traded near six-months peaks against a basket of major currencies as the euro continued to sag.

Profits earned by Chinese industrial firms rose 17.9 percent in June to 588.08 billion yuan ($94.98 billion) from a year earlier, up sharply from an 8.9 percent rise in May, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

Recent data have reinforced market expectations that the Chinese economy is powering through its recent soft patch as the government uses targeted stimulus measures to support growth.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.2 percent, close to a three-year high of 509.23 scaled on Friday.

China's CSI300 jumped 2.3 percent and the Hang Seng climbed 0.8 percent.

Tokyo's Nikkei, which hit a six-month closing high Friday, was up 0.5 percent.

Funds from Middle Eastern and Asian investors were trickling in again as the Muslim fasting month ends, helping to shore up regional stocks, said Soichiro Monji, chief strategist at Daiwa SB Investments in Tokyo.

"Geopolitical concerns remain as the conflict in the Ukraine does not look like it will end soon, but there is some relief spreading that the impact will be contained," he said.

The focus turned to whether this week's run of U.S. data would be strong enough to keep fuelling risk appetite.

Upcoming U.S. indicators include the Case-Shiller price index on Tuesday, second-quarter GDP due on Wednesday and non-farm payrolls on Friday.

Factory activity surveys for major Asian economies will also be released on Friday.

The euro traded little changed at $1.3432, within close reach of $1.3421 plumbed on Friday, its lowest since November 2013.

The euro took another hit on Friday when Germany's Ifo business climate index painted a gloomy picture of the economy.

It had already been under pressure from a range of factors including expectations of further easing by the European Central Bank and diverging interest rates seen favouring the U.S. over Europe.

"We should brace for the euro breaking below key support at 1.34, given diverging U.S. and European monetary policies. Dollar buying pressure is building as shown by the strength of the dollar index, which this week's data, if upbeat, could enhance further," said Junichi Ishikawa, market strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.

The two-day Federal Reserve policy review ending on Wednesday was also in focus but expectations were for Chair Janet Yellen to deliver the usual dovish message.

The dollar index, a gauge of its strength against a basket of key currencies, stood little changed at 81.026 after striking a near six-month high of 81.804 on Friday.

The dollar fetched 101.81 yen, having lost a bit of momentum in the wake of a rise in U.S. Treasury yields after climbing to a two-week high of 101.94 on Friday.

While the attention of equity and currency markets has shifted towards major corporate earnings and macroeconomic trends, geopolitical issues remained a key factor in commodities such as oil.

Brent crude shed 0.4 percent to $107.96 a barrel but still retained a chunk of its gains from Friday, when it climbed more than $1 as fighting in Ukraine and deteriorating relations between Russia and the United States ignited new fears of supply disruptions.




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