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Asia stocks edge up as Wall St. extends comeback rally



TOKYO (Reuters) – Asia stocks inched higher on Friday after Wall Street ended volatile trade in the green, adding to the massive gains of the previous session although lingering investor jitters helped support safe-haven currencies such as the yen.

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians are reflected on an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan December 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.15 percent. It has fallen almost 4 percent so far in December.

Australian stocks added 0.5 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI climbed 0.65 percent. Japan’s Nikkei bucked the trend and slipped 0.25 percent.

U.S. stocks roared back to end in positive territory on Thursday, with the Dow adding 1.14 percent, after suffering steep losses for much of the session.

The gains come a day after Wall Street indexes posted their biggest daily percentage increases in nearly a decade following a sharp plunge at the week’s start.

However, all three U.S. major indexes remain down more than 9 percent for December following losses earlier in the month, when factors including concerns over the U.S.-China trade war, slowing global growth and wariness toward the Federal Reserve’s tightening cycle took a heavy toll.

Focus turned to the Fed’s stance and whether the equity markets can sustain their recovery at the start of the new year.

“If Fed officials – notably Chairman Powell and New York Fed Governor Williams – show a cautious stance towards further rate hikes given recent instability in the stocks markets, that would lead to a rise in U.S. equities and Treasury yields, and a firmer dollar,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is due to speak on Jan. 4.

While stocks showed signs of recovery, lingering market volatility helped keep safe-haven currencies such as the yen and Swiss franc in demand.

The dollar extended overnight losses and was down 0.15 percent at 110.84 yen. It was on track to lose more than 2 percent this month.

The greenback was little changed at 0.9862 francs per dollar after slumping more than 0.8 percent the previous day. The U.S. currency has fallen 1.1 percent against its Swiss peer on the month.

The euro was flat at $1.1432 after gaining 0.7 percent overnight. The common currency was headed for a 1 percent gain in December.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield was up 3 basis points at 2.773 percent, pulling back from a nine-month low of 2.720 percent brushed earlier in the week.

The yield had climbed to a seven-year peak of 3.26 percent in October as the debt market braced for potentially faster pace of Fed rate hikes in 2019.

Oil prices remained choppy, with U.S. crude futures up 1.77 percent at $45.4 per barrel after sliding 3.5 percent the previous day.

U.S. crude had rallied 8 percent midweek after dropping to a 1-1/2-year low of $42.36 at the week’s start.

Crude has lost more than a third of its value since the beginning of October and is heading for declines of more than 20 percent in 2018.

In addition to supply concerns, worries about slowing global economic growth have dampened investor demand for riskier asset classes and pressured crude.

Spot gold, which has benefited this week from the global market turmoil stood little changed at $1,274.46 an ounce following an ascent to a six-month high of $1,279.06 on Wednesday.