Most Asian markets hold on to gains

<p>Regional stocks were mostly higher today with the MSCI Asia Pacific index up around 0.5% in early afternoon Tokyo trading. The Nikkei 225 charged ahead […]</p>

Regional stocks were mostly higher today with the MSCI Asia Pacific index up around 0.5% in early afternoon Tokyo trading. The Nikkei 225 charged ahead with a gain of around 0.7% while Australia’s materials heavy ASX200 lagged again today, down by 0.2%.

Regional corporate news was slow, but Esprit caused headlines in Hong Kong trading after its CEO departed, sending shares down by around 23% before trading was halted. The CEO’s departure puts recent restructuring plans for the apparel chain in doubt and shares have now fallen the most in over 14 years to a new five month low.

The Chinese market was the standout today with the Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 up 1.5%. Leading names included Beijing Orient Landscape and Ping AN Insurance which were up 7% and 6% respectively. China Life Insurance added 6% from depressed levels.

In currencies, the Australian dollar was last buying 99.42 US cents with an attempt at parity possible over the next few days, but the direction of the copper price and risk appetite in general will be key. At parity, the currency is likely to run into some stiff resistance.

The euro last traded at 124.91 US cents while the dollar yen was steady at 79.66.

Gold has slowly crept up above US$1600/oz to last settle at US$1608/oz. Silver was just shy of US$29/lb.

There are expectations in the market that the upcoming US Federal Reserve comments might pave the way open for more easing and the market is watching gold very closely. It hasn’t managed to rally out of its recent slumber but it isn’t slipping away either.

Newcrest Mining, listed on the ASX and placed in the top ten global gold producers, was last trading flat at around A$24.66.

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