Asian stocks mostly higher after US gains; Tokyo stocks down

SEOUL, South Korea – Asian stocks mostly advanced on Friday as higher prices for commodities, including crude oil, pushed Wall Street stocks higher overnight. But shares in Tokyo fell as the yen’s strength worried investors.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.3 per cent to 16,724.81 while South Korea’s Kospi added 0.1 per cent to 1,992.12. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.6 per cent to 20,616.98. The Shanghai Composite index in mainland China rose 1.8 per cent to 2,955.67 while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 per cent to 5,239.30. Stocks in Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia were higher.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “A lot of the worries on the worry list from early this year have faded,” Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney, Australia, said in a daily commentary. Oliver cited the stabilization of the Chinese renminbi, the halt in the U.S. dollar’s rise, eased fears about a U.S. recession and higher crude oil and commodity prices.

JAPAN: The stronger yen added to selling pressure in Tokyo, given concerns over the likely impact on profits of major exporters. Toyota Motor Corp.’s shares fell 2.3 per cent, Nissan Motor Corp. was down 1.8 per cent and robot maker Fanuc Corp. lost 1.2 per cent.

WALL STREET: Wall Street finished higher on Thursday as commodity price gains boosted energy companies. The Dow Jones rose 0.9 per cent to 17,481.49. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 0.7 per cent to 2,040.59. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.2 per cent to 4,774.99.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 5 cents to $40.25 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.74, or 4.5 per cent to finish at $40.20 per barrel on Thursday, closing above $40 a barrel for the first time since early December. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, gained 11 cents to $41.65 per barrel in London. Oil prices are now higher than they were at the end of 2015, but still far lower they have been for most of the last decade.

CURRENCIES: The dollar extended losses that began with the Federal Reserve’s decision to slow the pace of its rate increases while the yen gathered strength as investors sought safe haven assets. The dollar softened to 111.28 yen from 111.30 yen. The euro fell slightly, to $1.1312 from $1.1319.