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Nikkei rebounds, dlr steady after US trade

Written by: Staff

Singapore, Apr 13: Oil prices slid on Thursday as US crude stocks climbed to their highest level in nearly eight years, while Tokyo's Nikkei recouped early losses on optimism over technology company earnings.

A smaller-than-expected US trade deficit helped shore up the dollar while gold hovered below $600 an ounce, weighed down by profit taking ahead of the long Easter weekend.

Financial bookmakers have forecast the FTSE 100 <.FTSE> share index will open between 5 and 6 points higher.

The Nikkei average <.N225> ended 0.21 percent higher at 17,199.15, snapping a three-day losing streak on the back of technology shares such as Tokyo Electron Ltd. <8035.T>, which gained over 3 percent on news of a jump in product orders.

Tokyo Electron said orders of equipment used to build chips and liquid-crystal displays jumped 25 percent in January-March from the previous quarter.

The broader TOPIX index <.TOPX> finished up 0.05 percent at 1,743.77. The MSCI's index of non-Japan Asian shares <.MSCIAPJ> was up 0.18 percent by 0600 GMT.

Sony Corp. <6758.T> finished 1.7 percent higher after the Nihon Keizei newspaper reported it would probably beat its group operating profit target for the year ended in March, helped by robust sales of flat-panel televisions.

Taiwan's stocks <.TWII> jumped to a fresh two-year high, up 0.69 percent, boosted by tourism and constructions shares as Taiwan's government said it may lift a ban on visits by Chinese tourists to the island.

''Better relations on the two sides would boost the Taiwan economy significantly,'' said Tu Jin-lung, chairman of Grand Cathay Investment Services.

South Korea's index <.KS11> rose 1.6 percent as exporters such as Hyundai Motor <005380.KS> put on 1.3 percent, underpinned by optimism over U.S. corporate earnings and a fall in oil prices. Hong Kong's Hang Seng <.HSI> was trading up 0.3 percent.

Australian shares <.AXJO> eased as concerns about rising interest rates overtook the influence of soaring metals prices in a shortened trading session ahead of a four-day weekend.

Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand <.NZ50>, Singapore <.STI> and Philippine <.PSI> stock markets are closed on Good Friday.

Thailand <.SETI> and India are also on holiday on Friday.

DOLLAR SUPPORTED The dollar steadied, keeping the previous day's gains, though some traders said the market was girded to take profits from the currency's recent rise ahead of the Easter holiday weekend.

The dollar firmed after the US trade deficit for February came in narrower than expected at $65.7 billion, the third widest on record but below economists' estimates of $67.5 billion.

By 0555 GMT, the dollar was at 118.45 yen , barely changed from the level in late US trade on Wednesday. The euro was almost flat at $1.2100 .

Data on Thursday showed Japan's domestic corporate goods price index rose in March, pointing to building inflationary pressures and a possible interest rate rise later this year.

Elsewhere, the New Zealand dollar jumped more than 1 percent after stronger-than-expected retail sales suggested an economic recession may be averted and an early rate cut avoided.

US Treasuries edged up in Asia, keeping the benchmark 10-year yield away from the closely watched 5 percent level as investors gear up for US retail sales later in the day.

The data is the latest economic snapshot that could harden expectations the Federal Reserve will continue raising rates.

Gold shied from the $600-an-ounce level, lacking momentum to go up as profit taking persisted, while copper charged to record levels the day before.

Spot gold fell to $595.20/596.00 an ounce on Thursday from $597.50/598.30 late in New York and off a 25-year high of $604 an ounce hit on Tuesday.

Oil prices slid after a US government report showed crude stockpiles in the world's largest energy consumer rose last week to their highest level since 1998.

Crude stocks in US commercial storage rose 3.2 million barrels last week to 346 million, the highest level in nearly 8 years, sending US crude prices down 36 cents on Wednesday.

Oil stood 34 cents lower at $68.28 a barrel in Asian trade.


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