TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian stocks pulled ahead on Tuesday (Jan 15), led by a bounce in Chinese shares as Beijing signalled more supportive measures to stabilise a slowing economy, while the British pound braced for a showdown in parliament over the government's Brexit plan.
Tokyo's Nikkei rose 0.55 per cent to 20,474 after a market holiday on Monday while MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan recovered from early losses and advanced 0.56 per cent. South Korea's Kospi hit one-month highs.
In China, the CSI300 index of Shanghai and Shenzhen shares rose 0.62 per cent, seemingly supported by expectations of more government policy measures to prop-up a slowing economy.
China's state planner said on Tuesday it will aim to achieve "a good start" in the first quarter for the economy in a signal of more growth-boosting steps.
State television also quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as saying the government is seeking to establish conditions helpful to meeting this year's economic goals.
That came after data on Monday showed China's exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December, while imports also contracted sharply, pointing to further weakness in the world's second-largest economy in 2019 and deteriorating global demand.
Cyclical shares led the gains in the region, with Australian financial shares hitting seven-week highs while Japanese electronics and machinery makers shares rose to their highest levels in nearly four weeks.
"It is interesting that cyclicals are leading the gains today. It appears some contrarian investors are starting to buy cyclicals, looking beyond the last economic slowdown," said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.
S&P500 e-mini futures also gained 0.51 per cent to 2,594 in early Asian trade.
"But I would suspect there will be heavy selling if we go up further, to around 2,650 in the S&P500 and 21,500 in the Nikkei," Kuramochi added.
In Monday's session on Wall Street, the S&P 500 lost 0.53 per cent, with the biggest drag coming from a 0.9 per cent fall in technology sector.
While mounting worries about escalating US-China trade tensions and a slowdown in the global economy have pummelled global stock prices since last October, cheap valuations are helping to attract some buyers.
US earnings season began on a positive note on Monday as Citigroup Inc beat profit estimates. The bank's shares rose 4.0 per cent and bolstered the S&P financial sector .SPSY, which rose 0.7 per cent.
The British pound is likely to steal the limelight later in the day as the Britain's parliament will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.
On Monday May urged lawmakers to take a "second look" at her deal ahead of a vote that looks set to reject the agreement.
Such a result could open up the possibilities of a wide range of outcomes, from a disorderly exit from the union to a reversal of Brexit.
"Markets have priced in a rejection of May's plan and there are many scenarios after that. Still I'd think the most likely outcome is to extend the (March 29) deadline of Brexit," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.
Indeed, currency option markets are barely pricing in the chances of sharp moves in sterling.
The pound's one-month implied volatility stood at 12.5 per cent, above the average for the past year of around 8.8 per cent well off 20-per cent plus levels seen in the days just before the UK referendum on June 23, 2016.
The pound changed hands at US$1.2897, up 0.2 per cent, having hit a two-month high of US$1.2930 on Monday after a report, subsequently denied, that a pro-Brexit faction of lawmakers could support May's deal.
The euro inched up 0.17 per cent to US$1.1486, consolidating after hitting a 12-week high of US$1.1570 touched on Thursday.
The US dollar gained 0.24 per cent on the yen to 108.16.
Oil prices also rebounded on supply cuts by producer club OPEC and Russia.
International Brent crude oil futures were at US$59.71 per barrel, or 1.2 per cent from their last close.
US crude futures stood at US$51.14 per barrel, up 1.25 per cent.