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Tokyo recovers as Asian tech firms enjoy bounce


Businessmen walk past a stock quotation board flashing the Nikkei 225 key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in front of a securities company in Tokyo on december 6, 2017. The key Nikkei 225 index fell 1.97 percent, or 445.34 points, to 22,177.04, suffering the biggest point loss this year. / AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA

Tokyo stocks rallied Thursday after three days of losses, while technology firms saw some much-needed buying in Asia but regional markets were dogged by political concerns, the latest being Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Equities plunged on Wednesday, led by tech firms as investors cashed out following a year-long surge in the sector.

However, strong gains in stocks including Amazon, Facebook and Google parent Alphabet in New York provided some buying impetus for the sector in Asia.

Tencent jumped 3.2 percent and AAC technology climbed three percent in Hong Kong while Sony rose 1.8 percent and Samsung was 1.4 percent higher.

But energy firms, which also dived Wednesday, suffered again after a plunge in oil prices overnight fuelled by disappointing US stockpiles data. Crude was flat Thursday.

Tokyo ended 1.5 percent higher, while Hong Kong added 0.3 percent — the two benchmark indexes had plunged around two percent on Wednesday.

Sydney and Wellington were each up 0.5 percent. But Shanghai shed 0.7 percent while Singapore and Seoul both slipped 0.5 percent.

In early European trade London and Paris were flat while Frankfurt added 0.2 percent.

“Asia equity investors found themselves standing in a sea of pain at yesterday’s market close and are likely breathing a sigh of relief that both EU and US equity investors appear a bit more level-headed for the time being,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

After a blockbuster year for most global markets — helped by bets on Trump’s promise to cut taxes and ramp up spending — geopolitical worries and dealers winding down for the year’s end have put them on course for a painful December.

– Bitcoin soars –
Trump’s controversial decision on Jerusalem drew swift global condemnation and fanned fears about the overall prospects for stability in the Middle East.

That followed news this week that one of the president’s former close advisers had admitted lying to investigators in a probe into Russian meddling in the US election, bringing it closer to the White House.

Britain’s struggles to hammer out a deal with the EU on the Irish border question have left Brexit talks in limbo, meaning the second phase of the negotiations — on trade — cannot go ahead.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been given a deadline of the end of this week to resolve outstanding issues in order to draft an agenda in time for an EU summit on December 14-15.

The issue continues to pressure the pound and some analysts have speculated that May’s government could collapse over the issue.

“Sterling has… lost some ground amid reports that the DUP (May’s coalition partner) is digging its heels in with no deal over the Irish border question,” David de Garis, director at National Australia Bank, said in a commentary.

“All that optimism of getting a deal over the Irish border question ahead of the EU Summit next week seems now under threat,” he said.

Bitcoin charged to a new record above $14,000 as investors piled into the cryptocurrency, triggering fresh warnings of a bubble.

The digital unit has risen 20-fold since January and on Thursday hit a peak of $14,485, just a day after breaching $12,000.

“Bitcoin now seems like a charging train with no brakes,” said Shane Chanel, from Sydney-based ASR Wealth Advisers. “There is an unfathomable amount of new participants piling into the cryptocurrency market.”

But he warned: “Once the hype slows down, we will most certainly see some sort of correction.”

– Key figures around 0820 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.5 percent at 22,498.03 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.3 percent at 28,303.19 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,272.05 (close)

London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,345.01

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1793 from $1.1795 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3373 from $1.3387

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.57 yen from 112.29 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN seven cents at $55.89 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP five cents at $61.27 per barrel

New York – DOW: DOWN 0.2 percent at 24,140.91 (close)

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