Other Asia-Pacific markets

Japan stocks moved into negative territory after rising earlier. The Nikkei 225 and the Topix sat below the flatline. Japan reported inflation data, showing its core consumer price index hit a two-year high in March, according to Reuters.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 stayed in positive territory as it inched up 0.26%, with some gains in miners. South Korean stocks struggled for direction, trading between gains and losses. The Kospi last sat above the flatline.

Top gainers in Asia morning trade include mining firm MMG which shot up past 8%, and Fanuc, which rose 1.2%, as well as Singapore agricultural firm Olam which was up 5.1%. Notable losers included Nio, which fell 5.1% and China Life Insurance, which was down 2.1%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded 0.88% lower.

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Singapore’s Straits Times index was up 0.5%. Research firm Capital Economics and DBS Bank analysts said Friday they now expect Singapore’s central bank to tighten policy at its meeting next month after a major loosening of the country’s Covid restrictions on Thursday.

“Yesterday’s easing of virus restrictions in Singapore exceeded what we had expected and now means the risks to our above-consensus growth forecast of 4.0% this year are to the upside,” said Alex Holmes, emerging Asia economist at the firm. “The measures are also likely to add to inflationary pressures, further increasing the chance that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will tighten policy at its meeting next month.” 

U.S. stocks rallied overnight, led by chip stocks. The Dow jumped 349.44 points, or 1%, to close at 34,707.94. The S&P 500 added 1.4% at 4,520.16, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.9% to 14,191.84.

Stocks have seesawed this week, alternating between up and down days. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are on track to close the week higher.

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Currencies and oil

Oil prices were in focus, after falling almost 2% overnight after a volatile session. During Asia trade on Friday, U.S. crude was down 0.15% to $112.17 per barrel, and Brent was little changed at $119.05.

“[International Energy Agency] members are seeking to reduce their use of its crude,” said ANZ Research analysts Brian Martin and Daniel Hynes. They noted IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said the group is ready to release more oil from emergency stockpiles if needed.

Contributing to oil’s decline, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries officials have also expressed to the EU their discomfort on a proposed ban on Russian oil, Reuters said citing OPEC sources.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 98.527, dropping from levels around 98.7 earlier.

The Japanese yen traded at 121.55 per dollar, firmer compared to earlier. The Australian dollar was at $0.7517, as it continued to jump from levels around $0.74 earlier in the week.



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