Asian shares flat, still on track for winning week

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By Lisa Twaronite | TOKYO

Asian shares flatlined on Friday but remained on track for a weekly gain, while crude oil prices pulled away from this week’s 10-month lows.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was nearly unchanged on the day, and was up 0.4 percent for the week.

Japan’s Nikkei stock index .N225 added 0.1 percent, on track to log a rise of 1 percent for a week in which it touched its highest levels since August 2015.

“The actual macro situation in Japan is pretty good,” said Ed Rogers, head of Rogers Investment Advisors in Tokyo, who noted the country’s streak of five quarters of positive gross domestic product numbers.

He said the dollar remained bolstered against the yen by the Federal Reserve’s move to hike interest rates last week and leave the door open for further monetary tightening later in the year.

“We’re not seeing global inflation, but we think the Fed will continue to move. That stone’s rolling down the hill,” Rogers said.

Longer-term, that will support the dollar and underpin Japanese shares, he added.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.1 percent at 97.488 .DXY, but up 0.3 percent for the week.

The euro was up slightly on the day at $1.1158 EUR= but was down 0.3 percent for the week, while the dollar was steady against the yen at 111.33 JPY=, up 0.4 percent for the week.

“We’re getting close to the end of the month, and fundamentals aside, there will be people selling dollars, so it will be easy for the yen to strengthen next week,” said Mitsuo Imaizumi, Tokyo-based chief foreign exchange strategist for Daiwa Securities.

“We also need to keep an eye on the healthcare debate in Washington, because political turmoil tends to undermine the dollar,” he said.

U.S. Senate Republicans offered a bill on Thursday to overhaul Obamacare, the next phase in the party’s long war against the 2010 law enacted by then-President Barack Obama, though it remained unclear if the bill has enough support to pass the Senate.

On Wall Street overnight, U.S. shares put in a mixed performance, though the S&P healthcare index .SPXHC rose 1 percent and hit its fifth consecutive record close following the release of the Senate Republicans’ bill. [.N]

U.S. economic data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, but remained at levels consistent with a tight labor market. Home prices also increased in April more than expected.

The Mexican peso MXN=D2 added 0.2 percent after soaring 1 percent on Thursday as Mexico’s central bank board raised interest rates, saying it wanted to anchor inflation expectations and take into account last week’s move by the U.S. Federal Reserve to hike borrowing costs.

Crude oil futures pulled further away from this week’s lows, though market sentiment remained fragile amid a global crude glut that has persisted despite OPEC-led output cuts. [O/R]

Brent crude LCOc1 was up 0.3 percent at $45.36 a barrel. U.S. crude futures CLc1 also rose 0.3 percent to $42.86 a barrel.

Spot gold AUX= edged up 0.2 percent to $1,251.35 an ounce, moving away from a five-week low touched earlier this week. [GOL/]

(Reporting by Lisa Twaronite; Editing by Eric Meijer and Richard Borsuk)

 

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