Japan's Nikkei at 26-year high, other Asia shares muted

Japan's stock benchmark surged Thursday to its highest in more than a quarter century on the yen's weakness and healthy corporate earnings while other Asian markets were subdued.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index rallied 2 percent to 23,368.16, a level it hasn't matched since January 1992. South Korea's Kospi edged up 0.2 percent to 2,556.61. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1 percent to 29,182.28 but the Shanghai Composite in mainland China crept less than 0.1 percent higher to 3,416.32. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.4 percent to 6,041.40. Taiwan's benchmark fell and Southeast Asian indexes were mostly higher.

TOKYO RALLY: Japanese shares are rising as the yen nears its weakest level versus the dollar since July, making the country's shares and its exports more affordable for foreign buyers. Upbeat earnings reports are also boosting investor sentiment. So is the latest set of economic data, with monthly machinery orders falling 8.1 percent, which keeps the door open for central bank policymakers to maintain stimulus measures.

TRUMP TRIP: Investors will keep an eye on the second day of President Donald Trump's visit to China, where trade is expected to dominate the agenda as he holds talks with President Xi Jinping. The Asian tour has not provided much in the way of market-moving developments so far. On Wednesday, U.S. and Chinese companies on Wednesday inked business deals valued at $9 billion, including a pledge by China's biggest online retailer to buy $1.2 billion in American meat.

QUOTEWORTHY: Such deals are important for maintaining good U.S.-China trading relations battered by Trump's dislike of swollen U.S. trade deficits, said Prakash Sakpal, an economist at ING. "The improved economic relations with China will be key for the U.S. in keeping its own economic strength going and keeping the North Korea threat at bay, which is what matters for a sustained global growth and positive investor sentiments toward risky assets."

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks finished with small gains to close at record highs. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.1 percent to 2,594.38. The Dow Jones industrial average gained less than 0.1 percent to 23,563.36. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.3 percent to 6,789.12.

CURRENCIES: The dollar hovered near its strongest level since early July, rising to 113.97 yen from 113.88 yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.1595 from $1.1595.

ENERGY: Oil futures rebounded. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 10 cents to $56.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 39 cents to settle at $56.81 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 16 cents to $63.65 a barrel in London.


This story corrects date of previous high.