ASIA MARKETS: Asian Markets Close Mixed As Bitcoin Makes Noise

By Kenan Machado Features Dow Jones Newswires

Australia's stock gauge notches another 10-yer high; weaker yen barely moves Nikkei

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Bitcoin's wild swings after a morning plunge occupied center stage in Wednesday's trading session in Asia, as many equity benchmarks didn't move much.

The cryptocurrency's price -- which had been trading just below $19,000 Tuesday -- fell $2,000 in an hour to $15,600, according to CoinDesk. It then bounced up and down in a roughly $1,000 range, and was recently around $17,400.

Analysts blamed the swings on money moving from bitcoin to an alternative cryptocurrency called bitcoin cash. One of the biggest exchanges, Coinbase, started trading bitcoin cash on Wednesday morning -- but halted activity after just four minutes.

Bitcoin cash's price surged nearly 50% to about $3,250, according to Coinmarketcap.com. It is up more than 10-fold since its debut in August.

Given the relatively wider acceptance of bitcoin, the correction is liable to attract those who've been watching its price surge of the past several weeks with both awe and disbelief, said Kay Van-Petersen, a global macro and crypto strategist at Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore.

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There was much less action in other Asian markets.

Most major stock indexes stayed not far from Tuesday's finishes, though Malaysia's benchmark rebounded 0.6%, recovering from a sizable decline a day earlier -- its second-largest drop of 2017.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's main gauge ended down 0.2%, preventing it from notching another record close, while Australia's index scored another 10-year closing high.

Declines in the yen didn't boost Japanese stocks much, with the Nikkei finishing just 0.1% higher. The dollar was recently at Yen113.16 versus Yen112.59 when local stock trading ended Tuesday.

But bank stocks there got a boost on fresh overnight gains in bond yields. Ten-year Treasurys had their highest yield in nine months at 2.464% in late Tuesday New York trading, and were recently at 2.448%.

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 about 0.4%.

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 20, 2017 05:50 ET (10:50 GMT)