ASIA MARKETS: Asia-Pacific Stocks Start Lower, Edge Back Into Positive Territory

By Ese Erheriene Features Dow Jones Newswires

Nikkei in danger of snapping 13-day streak of gains, as New Zealand on track for 14th positive day

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Early weakness in Japan, Australia and New Zealand stocks faded Friday morning, but Asia-Pacific markets overall lacked direction following weakness in Europe and swings on Wall Street.

Hong Kong stocks rebounded strongly at the open, with the Hang Seng Index up 0.7%. A late-session selloff Thursday put the benchmark down 2%, after a warning from the governor of China's central bank rattled investors.

The Hang Seng has been one of the best performer world-wide this year, rising 28% through Thursday.

After a week of cautious trading, most indexes in the region stuck to narrow ranges and remained within 0.3% of Thursday's closing levels. "Asian markets may be strained with rather mixed performances into the end of the week," said Jingyi Pan, chief market strategist at IG Group.

In New Zealand, the benchmark NZX 50 slid as much as 1.2% on Thursday after an agreement was reached to create a left-leaning government after last month's inconclusive election. That news sent the New Zealand dollar down, a drop that continued Friday with it falling below US$0.70 for the first time in five months.

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On Friday, the NZX 50 turned higher by early afternoon and was recently little changed as it was on track to post a 14th day of gains. Before its current streak, the index's longest run of consecutive positive closes was seven.

Through Thursday, Japan's Nikkei had also risen for 13 consecutive days, its longest streak since 1988.

The Nikkei was recently down 0.1% as the dollar rebounded against the yen. The pair was recently at Yen113, compared with an overnight low of below Yen112.50.

Japan will have an election Sunday and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition is projected to remain in power. That would be "the most market-friendly election outcome," said Prakash Sakpal, an Asia economist at ING.

Australian stocks also overcame early weakness, with the S&P/ASX 200 turning a 0.5% decline into a 0.2% gain by midday. The index rebounded 3.8% in October through Thursday, putting it on track for its best month of 2017.

Elsewhere, Korea's Kospi added 0.3% as Samsung Electronics (005930.SE) rebounded more than 1%; Taiwan's Taiex fell 0.4%.

Oil futures gave up modest early gains after crude ended a four-day winning streak overnight. December Brent futures were recently up 2 cents at $57.25 a barrel.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 19, 2017 23:35 ET (03:35 GMT)