By Kenan Machado
Hang Seng continues its great year; Nikkei rises respite yen's rebound
Stocks in Asia-Pacific finished largely higher, building on fresh records for U.S. indexes overnight, with Hong Kong's benchmark flirting with a 10-year high Wednesday before ending at its best level in about two and a half years.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 1% at the open after logging a 2.2% gain on Tuesday -- its best day in more than a year. If the Hang Seng had finished up more than 0.9%, it would have notched its highest close in a decade. But it ended up by 0.7%, marking its highest finish since April 2015.
The Hang Seng has been one of the world's best-performing stock indexes this year, rising nearly 30%, amid big gains in Chinese property developers and index heavyweight Tencent Holdings Ltd. (0700.HK)
Hong Kong markets will be closed Thursday, while there is no trading at all this week in China and South Korea. Taiwan is also shut for a holiday on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average added 0.1% despite an overnight rebound in the yen, which was extended in Asian trading. The yen was recently at Yen112.53 versus the dollar, compared with Yen112.85 in late New York action Tuesday and Yen113.15 when Japan stock trading concluded Tuesday.
Australian equities bucked the regional trend with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.9%. Equities Down Under have steadily lagged behind others this year -- both regionally and elsewhere in the world -- despite strong economic data of late and metals prices that have been largely been solid in 2017.
"The selling pressure is harder to explain in light of a general 'risk on' flavor," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
Some of Australia's big banks, miners and oil companies saw their shares fall 1% or more in morning trading.
The benchmark index is just above 5,650, a technical level a number of analysts have been watching. Falling through the level, which has proven repeatedly this year to be a point of market support, could lead to bigger declines, they have said.
Oil was another weak spot in the market Wednesday as overnight declines, following some downbeat U.S. inventory data from an industry group, were extended in Asian trading.
Futures for the Brent global crude-oil benchmark were recently down 0.7%, while U.S. oil futures slid 0.6% to about $50 a barrel.