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Asia markets were mixed, with energy stocks spurred by recovery in crude oil prices and as the pound dropped further against the dollar ahead of Wednesday’s Article 50 Brexit triggering.
The pound was losing ground to the greenback in Asian trade after Theresa May on Tuesday signed the letter to start Britain’s exit from the EU. The British currency shed 0.4 per cent on Wednesday morning to $1.2401, bringing it 1.3 per cent lower over the two-day period.
It was the only marked loss against the greenback among major currencies during the morning session, with the Australian dollar gaining 0.1 per cent on its US counterpart to $0.764. Japan’s yen was trading flat at ¥111.16 per dollar.
Australian equities took a positive lead from Wall Street, which on Tuesday recouped some of the sharp losses of the past week thanks in part to a fillip in oil prices that bolstered energy stocks.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.8 per cent in Sydney gains led by the information technology segment, up 1.3 per cent. Shares in Fairfax Media rose as much as 7.5 per cent to A$1.14 – the highest level since May 2011 – following a report that private equity group TPG had acquired a stake of up to 4.9 per cent in the media group.
In Tokyo a 1.2 per cent rally from energy stocks was not enough to offset broader losses that saw the Topix index down 0.4 per cent. Among the worst falls were a 1.4 per cent drop in real estate stocks and a dip of 1.2 per cent by financials.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 0.2 per cent as shares in Tencent Holdings rallied, rising 1.8 per cent after the Chinese internet group took a 5 per cent stake in electric carmaker Tesla.
Crude oil prices were building on gains made late on Tuesday after executives from some of the world’s largest independent oil trading firms affirmed their belief that Opec will commit to maintaining production cuts as long as Russia increases its compliance. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was up 0.2 per cent at $51.44 a barrel, while US marker West Texas Intermediate rose 0.3 per cent to $48.53.
Gold was down 0.2 per cent at $1,248.77 per ounce, reversing some of the gains made earlier in the week during Monday’s tumult in equities markets.
Sovereign bond prices in the region were edging lower as Monday’s risk-off attitude abated. The yield, which moves inversely to price, on 10-year Australian government bonds was up 3 basis points at 2.725 per cent. That on the equivalent Japanese government bond was up 1bp at 0.053 per cent.
Ten-year US Treasuries were faring better, trading flat during the Asia morning session with a yield of 2.418 per cent.