Singapore shares gain 0.22%, Asian markets open higher

Singapore shares gain 0.22%, Asian markets open higher

Asia stocks traded higher on Thursday, after US equities advanced following the release of the most recent Fed meeting minutes.

In Singapore, the benchmark Straits Times Index gained 6.15 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 2,817.40 points, reported The Business Times.

Australia's ASX 200 was up 0.48 percent, while in South Korea, the Kospi was higher by 0.26 percent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 wavered in early trade before trading up 0.72 percent.

Overnight, the Japanese yen surged against the dollar to levels not seen since October 2014. The dollar/yen pair finished at 109.78 on Wednesday and retreated further Thursday morning during Asian hours. The pair traded at 109.69 as of 8:35 a.m.

Major Japanese exporters traded mixed, after initially selling off in early trade. Shares of Toyota advanced 0.22 percent, Nissan was higher by 0.6 percent and Honda was off 0.16 percent. The heavily weighted Fast Retailing was off 0.85 percent.

A stronger yen affects the profitability of major exporters as it reduces their overseas profits when converted into local currency.

Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, wrote in a note that despite the drop in the dollar/yen pair overnight, there have been no signs of the Bank of Japan in the market. Lien said this is "worrisome because it suggests that their pain threshold for yen strength could be much higher."

Overnight, the Federal Open Market Committee March meeting minutes showed several policymakers expressed caution over a potential April hike, while some said that it might be warranted.

The minutes failed to boost the dollar, with the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, remaining at the 94 handle. The index ended Wednesday at 94.24 and traded at 94.45 Thursday morning as of 8:14 a.m. HK/SIN time.

Down Under, the Australian dollar traded at $0.7613 against the dollar, advancing since Tuesday's close at $0.7543.

In corporate news, shares of smartphone giant Samsung Electronics barely reacted to the announcement that the company's first-quarter operating profit likely rose 10.4 percent on-year, beating expectations. In a regulatory filing, Samsung said its January-March operating profit was likely 6.6 trillion won ($5.72 billion), reported Reuters.

Shares of troubled Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata were off 2.27 percent, following reports on Wednesday that said a 17-year-old driver of a recalled 2002 Honda Civic was killed last month in Fort Bend County, Texas.

Oil prices also rose overnight, after data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed crude stockpiles dropped by 4.9 million barrels last week, Reuters reported. Analysts polled by the news wire had expected an inventory build up by 3.2 million barrels.

US crude futures settled up 5.2 percent at $37.75 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent added $1.97 to $39.84.

Major US indexes advanced overnight, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing up 0.64 percent, the S&P 500 adding 1.05 percent and the Nasdaq composite higher by 1.59 percent.

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