Asia markets mixed in early trade as traders brace for Brexit vote

Asia markets mixed in early trade as traders brace for Brexit vote

Markets in Asia were mixed in early trade on Thursday, following losses in US stocks, as investors remained on edge ahead of the UK vote on whether to leave the European Union (EU).

Australia's ASX 200 was flat at 5,274.10, with the materials subindex standing out with a 1.06 per cent gain. Major miners saw more 1 per cent advances, with shares of Rio Tinto up 2.11 per cent and Fortescue rising 3.68 per cent.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 0.35 per cent, while across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was down 0.27 per cent.

Stateside, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 48.90 points, or 0.27 per cent, at 17,780.83. The S&P 500 index was down 3.45 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 2,085.45, while Nasdaq composite fell 10.44 points, or 0.22 per cent, at 4,833.32.

Market moves were relatively muted, despite lingering uncertainty over the UK referendum.

"Markets seem to have almost entirely priced in a 'remain' vote win, meaning that the market moves and volatility around the vote may be far less than many had expected," Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at spreadbettor IG, said.

But Nicholson cautioned that markets were nervous and "some sharp market moves are likely over the next 24 hours."

Britons head to the polls on June 23 to cast a vote that would determine if the United Kingdom (UK) should remain or leave the 28-member EU trade bloc.

The pound traded up at $1.4800 as of 8:39 a.m. HK/SIN, compared with levels near $1.40 in the previous week.

Oil prices fell overnight after data showed the drawdown in US crude inventory was lower than what the market expected. The US Energy Information Administration reported a stockpile decline of 917,000 barrels for the week ended June 17, Reuters reported. This was below the 1.7 million-barrel drawdown that analysts polled by Reuters had forecast.

Overnight, global benchmark Brent fell 1.5 per cent to $49.88 a barrel, while US crude futures dropped 1.4 per cent to $49.13.

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