Asian stocks mostly higher in quiet holiday trading

SEOUL, South Korea – The few Asian stock markets that were trading Friday mostly advanced, with shares in Tokyo and Shanghai up and Seoul stocks slightly lower. Financial markets in Europe, the United States and most of Asia were closed for the Good Friday holiday.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 per cent to 17,002.75. South Korea’s Kospi edged down 0.1 per cent at 1,983.81. China’s Shanghai Composite Index traded 0.6 per cent higher at 2,979.43. Markets in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and India that were closed for the Good Friday holiday will remain closed until Monday for Easter.

CHINA GROWTH: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday at an annual forum in China that the country will maintain medium-high growth and it has many tools to turn the economy around. Chinese leaders have set an economic growth target of 6.5 to 7 per cent for this year.

THE QUOTE: “Although by most standards the market is running quiet, a recent shift in global investor sentiment has been beneficial for China,” Stephen Innes, senior foreign exchange trader at OANDA Asia Pacific, said in a daily commentary. “The long-term prospects are still muddled however. Capital outflows will be a concern along with China’s struggling economy.”

WALL STREET: The U.S. stock market closed nearly unchanged on Thursday in very light trading ahead of the Easter holiday weekend. The Dow rose 0.1 per cent to 17,515.73. The S&P 500 index slipped 0.04 per cent to 2,035.94. The Nasdaq added 0.1 per cent to 4,773.50.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose after some Fed bank presidents earlier this week made public comments that suggested the pace of rate hikes might not be slowed after all. The dollar strengthened to 113.02 yen from 112.79 yen. The euro fell to $1.1169 from $1.1180.

OIL: Due to the Good Friday holiday, there were no settlements for crude oil futures. On Thursday, benchmark U.S. crude fell 33 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to close at $39.46 a barrel in New York. Oil prices closed lower again as concerns over excess supplies returned following the latest U.S. stockpiles data. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, added 1 cent to $40.45 a barrel in London.