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'Calm before storm' as Asian stocks drift higher

By AFP
media Traders are looking at a plethora of risk factors AFP

Asian shares drifted marginally higher on Tuesday following another volatile session on Wall Street but a perfect storm of risks hovering over the global economy curbed investors' enthusiasm.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng market led the gains, rising by half a percentage point, while equities in Japan scraped into positive territory after suffering stiff losses the previous day.

Chinese stocks opened essentially flat while markets in Australia and South Korea were fractionally in the green.

Global markets have been rocked in recent days as traders fret about spiking oil prices, rising US long-term interest rates and an attack by US President Donald Trump on his own central bank and its policies.

After a see-saw session on Wall Street, the Dow Jones closed down 0.4 percent and the broader S&P 500 was down just more -- at 0.6 percent.

Investors have now entered a "stalemate period to rethink the plethora of looming market uncertainties, ambiguities and flat out worries," said Stephen Innes from OANDA trading.

"But this relative calm belies the building storm clouds on the horizon."

Gains in Tokyo were sparked by a "technical rebound... after a sharp fall yesterday," said analysts at Okasan Online Securities.

The oil price continued to climb amid ongoing geopolitical tensions surrounding Saudi Arabia, with accusations that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

Trump said overnight he would send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to find out "first-hand what happened, what they know, what's going on."

Turning to foreign exchange markets, the pound suffered further falls in early Asian trade as the possibility of a "no deal" Brexit looms.

EU President Donald Tusk said he remained "hopeful and determined" that Britain and the bloc could clinch an amicable divorce deal.

However, he added: "We must prepare the EU for a no-deal scenario, which is more likely than ever before."

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 22,318.69 (open)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.5 percent at 25,568.84 (open)

Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 2,567.76 (open)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1550 from $1.1580 at Monday's close

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3110 from $1.3153 at Monday's close

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.08 from 111.77 yen at Monday's close

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 6 cents at $71.84 per barrel

Oil - Brent Crude: UP 13 cents at $80.91 per barrel

New York - Dow Jones: DOWN 0.4 percent at 25,250.55 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 7,029.22 (close)

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