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Stocks in Asia close higher after global rally on French polls; Kospi hits multi-year high

  • China markets open up, recover from Monday fall
  • USD gains against loonie after threatened tariffs on Canadian lumber exports
  • Crude gains in Asian hours

Equities held in the green in Asia on Tuesday after the first round of France's presidential election stoked a global relief rally, with several regional markets jumping to multi-year highs.

Toshifumi Kitamura | AFP | Getty Images

The euro traded at $1.0864 against the dollar, off the five-month high of $1.0935 hit after Emmanuel Macron garnered 23.7 percent of the vote in the first round of the French election.

"France would be set on two very different courses depending upon who wins the election ... With this in mind, there has been very little follow through in the euro," said BK Asset Management Managing Director Kathy Lien in a note.

Markets are also keeping an eye on developments on the Korean Peninsula as the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier-led battle group heads to the Sea of Japan.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 1.08 percent or 203.45 points to close at 19,073.33. The Kospi climbed 1.06 percent or 23.11 points higher to trade at 2,196.85, hitting a two-year high.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
---
ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Markets in greater China were also higher after posting their worst session in 2017 yesterday. The Shanghai Composite gained 0.19 percent or 5.872 points to close at 3,135.4032 while the Shenzhen Composite added 0.506 points or 9.4846 points to close at 1,882.858. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed surged 1.19 percent at 3:05 pm HK/SIN.

Other markets in the region also posted significant gains, with Malaysia's benchmark stock index hitting its highest levels since May 26, 2015. Philippine shares soared 1.72 percent and were at their highest since September 2016 earlier in the session at 7,719.67.

Markets in Australia and New Zealand were closed for ANZAC day.

In currency news, the U.S. dollar gained against the loonie, up 0.43 percent to 1.3558 after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his agency will impose new anti-subsidy tariffs averaging 20 percent on Canadian softwood lumber imports.

The dollar traded higher against a basket of rivals at 99.129 after previously falling to the 98 handle on the back of euro strength. Meanwhile, Singapore's currency climbed to its highest level since the U.S. election last November, with the greenback fetching as little as 1.3902 Singapore dollars in Asia afternoon trading.

Khoon Goh, senior foreign-exchange strategist at ANZ, said the gains were due to a general "risk-on" tone in Asian markets, noting that the rupee, rupiah and South Korean won were all gaining as well.

The dollar gained against the yen to trade at 110.11, off the 109 handle seen earlier in the day, while the Australian dollar was rather flat at $0.7550.

"With 'risk on' buoying commodities, the Aussie dollar moved up more decisively towards 76 cents. But iron ore's price recovery remained a tad shallow ...and this was cause to be a little more circumspect about sustained rallies (in both the Aussie and iron ore)," Mizuho Senior Economist Vishnu Varathan said.

Oil prices ticked up after declining on doubts that OPEC would extend output cuts. U.S. crude traded 0.28 percent higher at $49.37 a barrel while Brent crude futures were up 0.29 percent at $51.75.

Meanwhile, HSBC was formally mandated to advise Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco on its initial public offering. HSBC shares traded 1.27 percent higher.

On the economic front, South Korea reported that April consumer confidence data hit a six-month high. It was the third straight month consumer confidence has increased on month.

Hong Kong March trade data is expected at 4:30 pm.

Over in the U.S., equities surged on the back of the first round of the French election, with major indexes gaining more than 1 percent. European markets also finished higher, with the French benchmark CAC 40 index surging more than 4 percent.

Investors stateside are eyeing Trump's plans to accelerate tax reform plans. Trump is pushing for a 15 percent corporate tax rate even if it could potentially increase the budget deficit, the Wall Street Journal reported.