Asian stocks erase early losses on bargain hunting

By Saikat Chatterjee | HONG KONG

Asian stocks erased early losses and edged higher on Thursday as signs of resilience emerged in some markets, while steadying commodity prices – especially for oil – prompted some bargain hunting among investors.

But with the outcome of the French presidential elections due at the weekend, markets are set to trade in well worn trading ranges, barring any major data surprises in Asia.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.1 percent after declining 0.5 percent in early trades. Gains in Chinese and Japanese stocks pulled the broader market higher.

“Given the binary risk of the French presidential elections and geopolitical concerns over North Korea, investors are staying on the sidelines.

“We are looking at the opportunities in Asia, particularly…equities in China and India where corporate earnings are expected to be strong this year,” said Fan Cheuk Wan, head of investment strategy and advisory, Asia, HSBC Private Banking.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron clung on to his status as favorite to win France’s presidential election in a four-way race that is too close to call, as the camp of far-right challenger Marine Le Pen ramped up its euroskeptic rhetoric in a row with Brussels.

Japanese stocks .N225 rose 0.3 percent after news of exports rising 12.0 percent in March from a year earlier and marking the fourth straight month of gains lifted sentiment..

“Even though a technical rebound in the Tokyo market lifts stocks, the basic trend to avoid risks hasn’t changed,” said Hiroyuki Nakai, chief strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center. “There is still so much uncertainty from global events.” Caution remained the overarching theme as cash levels among investors remained above the 10-year average in a monthly poll conducted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Weak results from index heavyweight IBM (IBM.N) pulled the S&P 500 and Dow lower with falls in energy sector stocks .SPNY also weighing on the broader market. [.N]

Bonds also came in for some profit-taking after a recent rally, with yields on benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes US10YT=RR firming to 2.21 percent from a five-month low of 2.165 percent hit on Tuesday.

A run of disappointing U.S. economic data and doubts how far the Trump administration will progress with tax cuts have quelled expectations of faster inflation.

The dollar failed to capitalize on higher U.S. yields with the greenback hugging the 200-day moving average of around 108.85 against the Japanese yenJPY= as traders preferred to trade on market technicals rather than take fresh bets.

Oil languished near a two-week low after a surprising build in U.S. gasoline inventories and a rise in domestic crude output partially offsetting cutbacks by other countries trying to reduce a global glut. [O/R]

U.S. crude futures CLc1 climbed 0.65 percent to $50.77 a barrel, after posting a near 4 percent drop overnight, the biggest one-day decline since March 8.

Gold XAU= was trading at $1279.20 per ounce, below Monday’s peak of $1,295.42.

(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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