ASIA MARKETS: Asian Markets Quiet As Bitcoin Makes Noise

By Kenan Machado Features Dow Jones Newswires

Australia's SPX nears another decade-best; Nikkei slips as yen weakens

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Asia-Pacific stocks didn't move much Wednesday after modest pullbacks in the U.S. and Europe, but bitcoin had a busy morning.

Prices fell $2,000 in an hour to $15,600, according to CoinDesk, before recovering and then bouncing up and down in a roughly $1,000 range. The cryptocurrency was recently at around $17,000.

On Tuesday, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange collapsed after a cyberattack and a loss of reserves. Central bank officials in Japan and Singapore also raised red flags about bitcoin.

And some bitcoin alternatives have been surging, with bitcoin cash jumping 25%. Overnight, marketplace Coinbase said it would allow investors to trade in bitcoin cash once there is sufficient liquidity.

"A couple of big players are moving to hold to hold bitcoin cash for the near-term upside," said Chris Weston, a market analyst at IG Markets.

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Many market participants sat on the sidelines awaiting results from voting on U.S. tax code changes and a Bank of Japan meeting that begins today.

Asia-Pacific indexes were slightly higher, with New Zealand looking to set another record closing high and Australia poised to notch another 10-year best.

While the Nikkei was down 0.1% with a weaker yen -- the U.S. dollar was at Yen112.95 versus Yen112.59 when local stock trading ended Tuesday -- bank stocks were rebounding further on further overnight gains in bond yields.

Oil futures rose modestly in Asia after an industry group estimated that U.S. crude inventories fell more last week than what is expected in a Wednesday government release. February WTI futures were up 0.3%.

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 19, 2017 22:28 ET (03:28 GMT)