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Tokyo’s Nikkei up ahead of US data, Asian trade quiet

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Tokyo — Tokyo’s Nikkei closed higher on Tuesday in quiet trade during Japan’s Golden Week holiday period, as investors took to the sidelines ahead of key earnings and economic data in the US.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.18 percent, or 40.16 points, to end at 22,508.03 but the broader Topix index fell 0.17 percent, or 3.05 points, to 1,774.18.

Bargain-hunting replaced morning selling, with “appetite intensifying for individual shares with good earnings reports”, Yoshihiro Ito, chief strategist at Okasan Online Securities, said in a commentary.

Trade across the region was thin, with most markets closed for public holidays. Japanese markets are open just two days this week.

Sydney ended 0.54 percent higher but Wellington eased 0.1 percent.

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Worries about US policy on Iran and trade pushed Wall Street into the red Monday, despite a strong start with good earnings from McDonald’s and several merger announcements.

The Dow closed down 0.6 percent, with the S&P 500 off 0.8 percent.

On oil markets Brent edged up six cents to $74.75 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate was also six cents higher, at $68.64 as traders keep watch on developments in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had fresh evidence Iran was continuing with a nuclear weapons programme, breaking an international agreement that US President Donald Trump will consider the future of this month.

“Netanyahu stoked the geopolitical fires by accusing Iran of lying about its past nuclear intentions,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia Pacific trade at OANDA.

The “hawkish retort not only increases the odds the US will pull out of the deal”, a reference to a 2015 nuclear agreement, “but raises the spectre of Israel taking military action against Iranian nuclear facilities”.

The dollar changed hands at 109.40 yen in late Asian trade, slightly higher than 109.20 yen in New York late Monday, providing some support to Japanese exporters.

Investors are watching for Apple’s earnings report later Tuesday, as well as the US Federal Reserve’s policy decision on Wednesday. That is followed by key US jobs data on Friday.

“US jobs data this weekend requires attention as momentum for a rise in salaries is emerging in the US,” leading to stronger inflation and worries about a rate hike by the Fed, said Tsuyoshi Nomaguchi, strategist at Daiwa Securities.

In Japan, Sony tumbled 6.05 percent to 5,073 yen after the electronics giant reported profits worth $4.5 billion but forecast a moderate slowdown ahead.

SoftBank closed up 0.65 percent at 8,557 yen after its US subsidiary Sprint and T-Mobile, a division of Germany’s Deutsche Telecom, announced they will form a new company.

Sprint and T-Mobile tumbled in New York on worries their proposed telecom mega merger would be blocked by antitrust regulators.

Honda ended down 0.98 percent at 3,730 yen after its full-year operating profit forecast missed expectations, while Hitachi rallied 6.07 percent to 850.3 yen after its full-year forecast was in line with market consensus, according to Bloomberg News.

The dollar fetched 109.30 yen in Asian trade, against 109.20 yen in New York late Monday. The greenback was also slightly higher against the pound and euro. — AFP

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