Asian stocks advance after Wall Street recovers, pound down after London attack

A man talking on his mobile phone next to an electric quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo.
A man talking on his mobile phone next to an electric quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - Asian stocks rose on Thursday (March 23), taking their cues from a Wall Street bounce, while the US dollar crawled up from a four-month low but remains clouded by concerns about US President Donald Trump's pro-growth policies.

The British pound was about 0.1 per cent lower at US$1.247 in early trade but had fallen as much as 0.4 per cent on Wednesday, after an attack close to Britain's Parliament killed five people, including the attacker and a police officer, and injured 40. Police said they believed the attacker was inspired by Islamist-related terrorism.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.1 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei gained 0.25 per cent, thanks to a weaker yen.

Overnight, the Nasdaq jumped 0.5 per cent and the S&P 500 closed higher, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat, after all three touched their lowest levels in about five weeks earlier in the session.

"Investors with a lot of cash used yesterday's downturn and the morning's weakness today as a buying opportunity," said Alan Lancz, president of investment advisory firm Alan B Lancz & Associates. He said, however, that US stocks could slip again if Trump's healthcare bill fails to progress.

The dollar advanced 0.15 per cent to 111.32 yen in early trade, after dropping to 110.71, its lowest since Nov. 22 overnight.

The dollar index also recovered about 0.1 per cent to 99.77, after touching a seven-week low overnight.

Trump has been trying to rally support for his plan to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation. Republican leaders of the House of Representatives plan a vote on the bill, Trump's first major legislation since he took office, later on Thursday.

"Failure to push ahead with this legislation will be seen as a defeat for Trump and the market may react negatively in the short-term; however this should be seen as a buying opportunity," James Woods, global investment analyst at Rivkin Securities in Sydney, wrote in a note.

In commodities markets, oil prices inched higher having touched their lowest level since November overnight, after data showed US inventories, already at a record high, grew by far more than forecast.

US crude gained 0.4 per cent to US$48.26 a barrel in early trade on Thursday.

The dollar's recovery weighed on gold, which retreated 0.2 per cent to US$1,246.20 after hitting a three-week high overnight.