Asia markets mostly higher, after FBI clears Clinton

Asian markets traded higher on Monday, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) again cleared presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of potential criminal charges in its private email server probe.

The Australian benchmark ASX 200 closed up 1.35 percent, or 69.98 points, at 5,250.8, buoyed by strength across all subindexes except gold, which shed 3.14 percent.

Westpac was up 2.66 percent at $30.50 a share. The Australian bank announced its full-year results, showing the lowest return-on-equity since 2009 due to higher capital requirements and low interest rates. Westpac also said it would abandon its ROE target of 15 percent, with CEO Brian Hartzer saying a longer-term ROE target of 13 to 14 percent would be more realistic.

Fortescue Metals Group jumped 3.4 percent, after Chinese iron futures climbed to their strongest level in more than two years on Friday, Reuters reported.

Japan's Nikkei 225 finished up 1.61 percent, or 271.85 points, at 17,177.21, after the dollar/yen strengthened to 104.43 as of 2:30 pm HK/SIN, compared to levels around 103 last week.

Suzuki Motor jumped 7.19 percent to 3,831 yen, after it raised its profit outlook by 2.4 percent to 200 billion yen ($1.92 billion), compared to a 7.8 percent decline in profit in the same period last year. The Japanese automaker said the profit guidance upgrade was due to better-than-expected sales in Indian and European markets.

Across the Korean strait, the Kospi closed up 0.79 percent or 15.56 points, at 1,997.58. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was 0.51 percent higher, apparently unphased by unrest over China's intervention in a closely watched legal case around two pro-independence lawmakers.

The Hong Kong-listed HSBC saw shares jump 1.74 percent to HK$58.40 each. The British lender reported a 86 percent decline to $843 million in pretax profit for the third-quarter, after it booked a $1.7 billion loss from the sale of its Brazilian unit and was reportedly hit by FX volatility.

Chinese markets recovered from earlier losses, the Shanghai composite was up 0.1 percent, while the Shenzhen composite slipped 0.098 percent.

China's Leshi Internet Information and Technology, better known as LeEco, the entertainment-to-vehicles company, was down 4.31 percent at 38 yuan per share, after shedding as much as 6.7 percent, on rising investor concerns over its rapid expansion, Xinhua reported.

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With the U.S. at the polls on Tuesday, the FBI on Sunday said that after examining new emails related to its probe of Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, the agency's view was unchanged from July, when it first said it did not find evidence to support criminal charges.

"This has made matters a lot easier for Hillary Clinton and it will help her to ease off some of the uncertainty and (is) good news for investors who have an appetite for risk in this environment," Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at ThinkMarkets, said in a Monday note.

Dow futures jumped 220 points on the news.

U.S. markets closed lower on Friday, with the S&P posting its longest losing streak in almost 36 years on the election uncertainty. The Dow Jones industrial average finished down 0.24 percent at 17,888.28, the S&P 500 ended lower by 0.17 percent at 2,085.18, while the Nasdaq composite finished down 0.24 percent at 5,046.37.

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FBI Director James Comey had written a letter to Congress on October 28 to inform it the agency was probing newly discovered emails related to its investigation of Clinton's use of the private server for government-related emails - a move that dramatically hiked uncertainty around the election, as Republican rival Donald Trump overtook Clinton in some polls.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll put Clinton at a clear but narrow lead over Donald Trump in the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll before Tuesday's election.

After the FBI announcement, the Mexican peso rose against the greenback, at 18.6837 compared to levels above 19 pesos last week. The peso is seen as a proxy for Trump's hopes of winning the election, due to his vocal anti-Mexico stance.

"The Canadian dollar and the Mexican peso, the two benchmarks for the election due to their close geographic and economic ties with the US, gained strength as a Clinton White House becomes a symbol for continental trade and prosperity," said Anthony Darvall, chief market strategist at easyMarkets.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan's released the minutes of its September meeting, which showed that one board member had said the central bank should be ready to fully mobilize all policy measures to achieve its 2 percent inflation target, while others shared the view that inflation pressures would take time to ease, Reuters reported.

Also on Monday, China will reveal its foreign currency reserves for October.

U.S. crude futures were up 1.61 percent at $44.78 a barrel in Asia, after settling at $44.07 in the Friday U.S. session, while Brent futures rose 1.58 percent to $46.30, after they settled at $45.58.

Oil futures had fallen for the sixth straight session in the U.S. on Friday, on signs of renewed tensions between Saudi Arabi and Iran, which could scupper an output-cut deal being hammered out by Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members.

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