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Japan leads Asia to modest gains; dollar steady

Japan leads Asia to modest gains; dollar steady
May 16, 2016
TOKYO - Buoyant Japanese stocks led Asian stocks to modest gains on Monday, helping to offset some of the gloom from soft Chinese data, while the dollar firmed against the euro and yen after receiving a boost from upbeat US indicators. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng .HSI added 0.3 percent, Australian stocks advanced 0.6 percent and South Korea's Kospi .KS11 was little changed. Tokyo's Nikkei .N225 climbed more 1 percent, buoyed by a weekend media report that Japan was poised to delay a sales tax hike set for April 2017. Hopes for more government fiscal stimulus also favored Japanese shares. It held the gains despite a denial by Japan's top government spokesman on Monday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to delay the tax hike. "There is no such fact. It is utterly groundless," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference, repeating that the government will increase the levy as planned unless there was a financial crisis on the scale of the Lehman Brothers collapse or a major natural disaster. Shanghai .SSEC, lost 0.3 percent after data on Saturday showed China's investment, factory output and retail sales all grew more slowly than expected in April, adding to doubts about whether the world's second-largest economy is stabilizing. ECONCN "Chinese data over the weekend managed to miss market expectations for every single release: credit growth, industrial production, retail sales, and fixed-asset investment," wrote Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG in Melbourne. "The miss on the activity front wasn't a huge surprise given we already saw a leveling off in the PMIs, but the dramatic slowing in credit growth will be raising some red flags in the already-reversing commodities space." Aluminum CMAL3 was stuck near a one-month low and copper CMCU3 was in close reach of a 2-1/2-month low. Commodities were hurt as the dollar reached a two-week high against a basket of currencies .DXY on Friday's upbeat April US retail sales data, which jumped 1.3 percent for the largest gain since March 2015. A stronger greenback tends to weigh on non-US buyers of dollar-denominated commodities. The dollar rose 0.2 percent to 108.88 yen JPY= after spiking briefly on Friday to 109.57, its highest since late April, in reaction to the strong US data. The euro was flat at $1.1313 EUR= after slipping to a two-week low of $1.1283 on Friday. The Australian dollar slipped to a 2-1/2-month low of $0.7236 earlier on Monday before crawling back to $0.7287. US crude oil CLc1 gained 1.6 percent to $46.95 a barrel after shedding more than 1 percent Friday on the dollar's gains. Brent LCOc1 rose 1.5 percent to $48.54 a barrel after falling 0.5 percent on Friday. Output falls in Nigeria and worries about political instability in Venezuela tightened supported crude oil, although rising OPEC output and a stronger dollar capped gains. -Reuters
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