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Asia markets end mixed, as post-Brexit recovery loses momentum

Nicky Loh | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Asia markets lost some momentum on Thursday, even as global markets recovered from their post-Brexit plunge.

Australia's ASX 200 added 91 points, or 1.77 percent, to 5,233.40, boosted by more than 1 percent advances in the financials, material and energy sub-indexes.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed nearly flat at 15,575.92, giving up most of its nearly 1 percent gains from earlier in the session. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed up 13.99 points, or 0.72 percent, at 1,970.35.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 1.02 percent in afternoon trade. Chinese mainland markets were muted, with the Shanghai composite finishing near flat at 2,929.60 and the Shenzhen composite also flat near 1,974.23.

Analysts said the rally in global financial markets' recovery from a post-vote rout suggested diminishing importance of the Brexit crisis in the short term. But uncertainty over the U.K.'s future persisted as Britain had yet to invoke Article 50, which would formally begin exit talks with the European Union.

Boris Schlossberg, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said, "[The] Brexit threat will only become real if U.K. actually goes through with the invocation of Article 50, and it appears that this will not be the case for the time being."

"Although markets remain wary and cognizant of the existential risk of Brexit, as long the Article 50 is not invoked, further downside risk appears to be limited," he said.

Others suggested the fallout might be contained.

"So far, the U.S. financial markets suggest the Brexit crisis, at least from an economic standpoint, is far less serious than is suggested by the public rhetoric," said James Paulsen, chief investment strategist and economist at Wells Capital Management, in a note. But Paulsen warned the crisis was far from over and "more days of renewed financial market volatility seem likely."

Despite the global rally in stocks, investors continued to flock to haven assets, sending yields in bond markets lower.

The amount of negative-yielding global debt jumped to $11.7 trillion, a 12.5 percent increase since the end of May, according to a Fitch Ratings report Wednesday.

Thursday morning Asia time, the yield on the 10-year Japanese government bond was at negative 0.225 percent.

On Wednesday, the yield on the 10-year U.K. gilt was just above its post-Brexit low at 0.95 percent; the German 10-year bund was yielding a negative 0.13 percent, above its Friday low of negative 0.17. The U.S. 10-year rose slightly to 1.47 percent, but the 30-year Treasury yield continued to head lower, at 2.26 percent.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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In the currency market, the dollar retreated from the 96 handle against a basket of currencies; the dollar index traded at 95.814 as of 2:36 p.m. HK/SIN, compared with levels near 96.009 on Wednesday afternoon Asia time.

The British pound moved further away from the more than 30-year lows touched earlier this week, trading at $1.3405; the euro traded at $1.1099 as of 2:36 p.m. HK/SIN. The Japanese yen weakened to 102.48 against the dollar, compared with Wednesday's levels near 102.25 in the afternoon local time.

Oil prices also dropped during Asian hours Thursday, with global benchmark Brent down 0.87 percent to $50.17, while U.S. crude futures slipped 0.82 percent to $49.47.

Gold, also considered a haven asset, was a touch lower, with spot gold down 0.27 percent at $1,315 an ounce. That's off its highs near $1,337 reached following the Brexit vote.

"Due to prevailing uncertainties related to the Brexit, gold should remain supported in the short term," Carsten Menke, a commodity analyst at Julius Baer, said in a note. But he didn't expect the strength would last unless wider economic or financial consequences emerged.

In company news, shares of Hyundai Motor dropped 2.52 percent at market close. Reuters reported that shipbuilders Hyundai Heavy and privately held Hyundai Samho Heavy sold shares in the South Korean automaker to raise 226.1 billion won. Hyundai Heavy shares closed up 0.48 percent.

Elsewhere, shares of Mitsubishi Heavy closed up 3.59 percent. Daiwa Securities raised its rating on the stock to outperform. Analyst Hirosuke Tai said the shares appeared undervalued and that he expected operating profit growth ahead despite the recent sharp appreciation of the yen.

In Singapore, bank shares shrugged off news that Moody's cut its outlook for the city-state's banking system to negative from stable, citing rising risks to the banks' asset quality and profitability from high exposure to the energy sector and domestic firms' high leverage.

UOB tacked on 2.45 percent, DBS added 1.67 percent and OCBC rose 1.88 percent.

Stateside, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 284.96 points, or 1.64 percent, at 17,694.68; the S&P 500 added 34.68 points, or 1.7 percent, to 2,070.77 and the Nasdaq composite gained 87.38 points, or 1.86 percent, to 4,779.25.

— Patti Domm contributed to this report.

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