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March 28, 2017, 10:43 p.m. EDT

Asia-Pacific stocks post gains after Wall Street’s rebound

Investors shrug of political uncertainty, focus on positive economic data

By Ese Erheriene

Bloomberg News
People walk along the harbor across from the Sydney Opera House, in Sydney, Australia. Australian stocks gained almost 1% in early trading Wednesday.

Investors in Asian equities regained some of their risk appetite Wednesday following strong gains in the U.S., where better-than-expected economic data sparked optimism.

In currencies, the pound continued to plunge against the dollar after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May signed the formal letter that will trigger the nation’s official separation from the economic bloc when it is delivered to European Council President Donald Tusk later Wednesday. The sterling was recently down 0.5%.

Broadly, though, after weathering choppy trading earlier in the week, stock markets shrugged off politics and refocused on data.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 (S&P:AU:XJO)   was up 0.8% in morning trade, opening at its highest level since May 2015. Korea’s Kospi (KOREA:KR:180721)   was 0.1% higher, Singapore’s Straits Times Index (SES:SG:STI)   added 0.3% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HONG:HK:HSI)   was up 0.3%.

Overnight, the U.S. Conference Board said its index of U.S. consumer confidence rose to the highest level since the year 2000. The measure highlights American optimism about the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both rose 0.7% Tuesday, while the Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.6%.

“The economic indicator of consumer confidence has been very impressive and I think that’s led to the broad-based gains in the U.S. market and that has really helped the Asian markets move higher today as well,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Group.

Meanwhile in Japan, local factors weighed on Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average (NIKKEI:JP:NIK)  , which reversed from early gains to decline 0.1%.

Several Japanese stocks that often attract investors with higher dividends are underperforming as they go ex-dividend, said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Asset Management.

Japan Airlines (TKS:JP:9201)   was down 1.0%, Takeda Pharmaceutical (TKS:JP:4502)   fell 2.1% and Japan Post Insurance (TKS:JP:7181)   slipped 2%.

Looking ahead, markets in the region will be watching out for U.S. jobless claims and Chinese inflation data this week.

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