Asian stocks weak as investors weigh US data, Brexit plans

March 29, 2017 - 1:01 am

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stocks were listless Wednesday as investors weighed strong U.S. economic reports against uncertainty as Britain readies a formal request to leave the European Union.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index was less than 0.1 percent lower at 19,194.20 while South Korea's Kospi was flat at 2,163.54. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.2 percent to 24,396.26 and the Shanghai Composite index edged up 0.1 percent to 3,257.66. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9 percent to 5,876.00.

CONFIDENCE RISING: The U.S. economy, the world's biggest, continues to strengthen, according to two data reports. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose in March to its highest level since 2000, in an upbeat sign of consumers' future expectations. Also, U.S. home prices in January jumped at the fastest pace in nearly 2½ years because the tightening supply of houses for sale sparked bidding wars in many cities.

QUOTEWORTHY: "While it's possible that U.S. consumer confidence may be tempered a little next month following the government's failure to achieve its healthcare reforms, the latest figure indicates a high base for confidence which should help support consumption and U.S. economic growth over coming months," said Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets.

BREXIT: British Prime Minister Theresa May's plan on Wednesday to trigger Article 50 of the European Union's key treaty has sent the pound lower. The request will trigger two years of negotiations before the U.K can exit the EU, a move that's divided Britain and leaves 3 million EU citizens living in the country worried about their future.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.7 percent to end at 20,701.50, turning in its longest slide in more than five years. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.7 percent to 2,358.57. The Nasdaq composite index gained 0.6 percent to 5,875.14.

CURRENCIES. The dollar strengthened to 111.16 yen from 110.57 yen. The euro rose to $1.0815 from $1.0810. The pound fell to $1.2413 from $1.2447.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures rose 22 cents to $48.59 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 64 cents, or 1.3 percent, to close at $48.37 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, climbed 17 cents to $51.59 a barrel in London.

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