ASIA MARKETS: Asian Markets Continue Their Early-year Rally

By Kenan Machado Features Dow Jones Newswires

Nikkei, Kospi up; Hang Seng looks to set record winning streak

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Asian stocks continued their start-of-year rally Tuesday, though Japanese equities pulled back late morning after the Bank of Japan trimmed the size of its bond-repurchase offer in its latest market operation.

The 5% reduction to Yen190 billion ($1.7 billion) of bonds maturing in 10-to-25 years was a sign of slight policy tightening by the central bank, and sent the yen jumping. A stronger currency often hurts Japanese stock prices. The dollar was recently at Yen112.55, versus Yen113.15 earlier.

The Nikkei was up 0.4% ahead of the midday break after earlier rising 1%, as the market reopened following a three-day weekend and investors caught up to Monday's stock gains in Asia.

And while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 set fresh 10-year highs Tuesday, gains were modest elsewhere.

South Korea's Kospi gained 0.4% even as Samsung Electronics (005930.SE) fell 1.7% after projecting weaker-than-forecast fourth-quarter results. Still, the company will post its best-ever quarterly earnings.

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But Taiwan's Taiex index eased from Monday's fresh 28-year high, dropping 0.1% as index heavyweight Taiwan Semiconductor (2330.TW) cooled 0.6%.

With a number of stock indexes in Asia Pacific having started 2018 with a series of multiyear and record highs, one market to watch Tuesday is Hong Kong. There, the Hang Seng Index will seek to match 1999's record 11-day winning streak. It's logged five 10-day runs since, including the current one.

While regional stock gains aren't likely to be as strong as last year, 2018's advance is still expected to be substantial in dollar terms, said Rob Carnell, head of research for Asia at ING. He said 2017's performance was boosted by modest prior gains. "I am really struggling to find any bad news at the moment."

Away from stocks, oil futures have added to Monday's rebound in Asian trading. The U.S. benchmark was recently up 0.7% and the global Brent contract gained 0.5% as crude prices have been at three-year highs.

And bitcoin has maintained its rebound to $15,000, according to CoinDesk, after the cryptocurrency fell Monday, from $16,000 to $14,000.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 08, 2018 22:36 ET (03:36 GMT)