Asia stocks open higher, Singapore share prices up 11 points

Asia stocks open higher, Singapore share prices up 11 points

Markets in Asia traded up on Thursday, extending their positive run from the previous session, following a slightly higher finish on Wall Street overnight.

Singapore share prices opened higher with the Straits Times Index up 11 points to 2,737.97, The Business Times reported.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 0.48 per cent, the broader Topix was higher by 0.8 per cent and South Korea's Kospi had added 0.27 per cent as of 8:30 a.m. HK/SIN time.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 was up 1 per cent in early trade, boosted by gains in the materials sector, which was up 2.05 per cent. Resources producers were mostly higher, with Rio Tinto gaining 2.24 per cent, Fortescue adding 5.33 per cent, and BHP Billiton up by 3.53 per cent.

Gold miners were also positive, with Newcrest up by 0.58 per cent. Overnight, US gold futures forApril delivery were up 0.93 per cent at $1,242.30 an ounce. Spot gold was up 0.1 per cent at $1,240.90 an ounce as of 7:23 a.m.

The dollar lost ground against the Japanese yen in the overnight session; he dollar/yen pair retreated from the 114 handle to the 113 handle. During Asian hours, the pair traded at 113.63 as of 8:20 a.m. HK/SIN time.

Japanese exporters were mixed, with Toyota up by 0.97 per cent and Nikon down 0.46 per cent. Usually a stronger yen is a negative for exporters as it reduces their overseas profits when converted into local currency.

Across the Korean Strait, South Korea's annual inflation in February picked up quicker than previously expected, Reuters reported. Official data showed the consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.3 per cent on-year in February and was up from a 0.8 per cent increase in January.

Oil prices were also higher in US trade; West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures finished up 26 cents, or 0.76 per cent, at $34.66 a barrel. Global benchmark Brent futures settled up 12 cents, or 0.32 per cent, at $36.93 a barrel.

The US Federal Reserve released its Beige Book on Wednesday local time that showed economic activity increased in most regions. Consumer spending also rose in most districts.

Major US indexes registered small gains, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 0.2 per cent, the S&P 500 up 0.41 per cent and the Nasdaq composite higher by 0.29 per cent.

Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG, added that China would be in focus for investors as the National People's Congress starts this weekend.

"Traders, economists and investors will be primarily focused on the [Gross Domestic Product] target for 2016, where all the talk has been that they will set a 6.5 per cent to 7 per cent growth target,' he said, adding Thursday's yuan mid-point fix by the People's Bank of China (PBOC) could be a focal point for the market.

China's Caixin February services PMI is due this morning.

On Thursday Australia posted a narrower-than-expected trade deficit of A$2.94 billion ($2.14 billion) for January, against Reuters consensus of A$3.1 billion.

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