Asian shares steady as investors turn attention to global politics

Hong Kong: Asian shares were mixed on Monday as investors turned their attention to global politics and evaluated weekend election results from Germany and New Zealand.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4 percent to 20,386.32 as the yen’s renewed strength made the country’s stocks more attractive to foreign investors. But South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.5 percent to 2,377.41, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 1 percent to 27,590.07 and the Shanghai Composite in mainland China fell 0.4 percent to 3,340.54. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.1 percent to 5,688.60. Taiwan’s benchmark fell and Southeast Asian indexes were mostly lower.

GERMAN POLITICS: Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term but the big change was the nationalist, anti-refugee Alternative for Germany party surging into parliament with about 13 percent of the vote. Merkel’s party and its allies lost some seats as they turned in one of their weakest post-war results. The results, which sent the euro spiking lower before it stabilized, underscore the tricky prospect Merkel has in forming a coalition with new partners to lead Europe’s biggest economy.

NEW ZEALAND VOTE: Prime Minister Bill English’s National Party won the most votes but failed to gain an outright majority and will need help from other political parties to form a government. The coalition negotiations likely mean New Zealanders will need to wait weeks to know if English will retain the top job or if Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern might prevail.

WEEK AHEAD: Politics also dominates the week’s events as rumors swirl that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to call a snap general election, which analysts said are keeping investors on edge. Investors are also looking ahead to Chinese manufacturing data and Japanese retail sales, employment and other economic data at the end of the week, for insights on Asia’s two biggest economies.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended little changed on Friday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose less than 0.1 percent to 2,502.22. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped less than 0.1 percent to 22,349.59. The Nasdaq composite added less than 0.1 percent to 6,426.92.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 112.27 from 111.99 yen on Friday. The euro weakened to $1.1935 from $1.1947.

ENERGY: Oil futures started the week lower. Benchmark U.S. crude lost 14 cents to $50.52 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 11 cents, or 0.2 percent, to settle at $50.66 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 8 cents to $56.34 a barrel in London.

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