ASIA MARKETS: Nikkei Logs A 19% Gain For The Year, Its Biggest Since 2013

By Lucy Craymer Features Dow Jones Newswires

South Korea, Australia, New Zealand indexes near multiyear highs

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Asian stocks were set to finish widely higher again Friday, capping a generally strong year.

Technology stocks continued their rebound after selling in holiday-thinned trading earlier in the week over concern about iPhone sales. In Taiwan, home to a number of Apple suppliers, the Taiex gained 0.7% to put 2017's gain at 15%. Index heavyweight Taiwan Semiconductor (2330.TW) rose 1.5%.

In Japan, slight dollar declines Friday held down stocks, which had been pressured by late dollar weakness Thursday. The Nikkei ended off 0.1% as the dollar fell to Yen112.66 from Yen112.95 Friday morning. Still, the index finished up 19% for the year, its biggest gain since 2013, thanks to a September-November surge.

After a strong end to 2016, analysts had anticipated further gains this year for the dollar, but it instead has backtracked some 9% against the pound and 12% versus the euro, while the Chinese yuan, after a clampdown on capital outflows, has had its strongest year since 2008.

For next year, potential market risks include the leadership change at the Federal Reserve and the impact of the U.S. tax overhaul.

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But geopolitical risks remain on the back burner. That is "the logical way for the market to be," said Ric Spooner, CMC Markets' chief market analyst. "The risks are not particularly clear or present at this stage, and there are a lot of maybes."

In the Asian bond market, Rajeev De Mello, head of Asian fixed income at Schroders, said improving global growth and low inflation should be supportive in 2018--though higher oil prices could be a headwind.

"China remains an unknown," he added. "A sharper-than-expected moderation in growth could have negative implications for much of Asia."

Elsewhere, Indonesia's JSX index jumped a further 0.8% in the morning session, putting it on pace for its ninth record closing high in the past 10 sessions. It has climbed 20% this year. And the Philippines' benchmark was recently up 1%, on pace for another record of its own. The PSEi has jumped 26% in 2017 after slight declines each of the past two years.

Beyond Japan, the region's only decliners were New Zealand, pulling back from Thursday's record close, and Australia, pulling back from a 10-year high.

Oil futures, after a soft start in Asia Friday, commenced to build on Thursday's gains in the U.S. The U.S. and global benchmarks were each up 0.7% recently.

A late-morning rally lifted bitcoin beyond $15,000, according to CoinDesk; it had spent much of the past day trapped below $14,500, falling as low as $13,500.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 29, 2017 01:48 ET (06:48 GMT)