Stocks mixed, oil subdued as traders eye Mideast and central banks

Stocks mixed, oil subdued as traders eye Mideast and central banks

Traders are awaiting a key policy meeting of the Bank of Japan
Traders are awaiting a key policy meeting of the Bank of Japan. Photo: Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP
Source: AFP

Asian stocks were mixed Tuesday, with traders tracking developments in the Middle East crisis as Israel presses on with its ground incursion of Gaza, while hopes the conflict will not spill over regionally kept oil prices subdued.

Attention is also on meetings by major central banks, with Japan's reported to be considering a tweak to its yield control policy, while observers expect the Federal Reserve to hold interest rates.

There is a sense of relief on trading floors that the Israel-Hamas conflict has been contained so far, with optimism growing that other regional players including Iran and Saudi Arabia will not get involved.

After surging almost three percent Friday on fears of a wider conflagration, both main contracts tumbled more than three percent at the start of this week as Israel opted for more day-to-day targeted attacks in Gaza aimed at weeding out the militants.

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While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out a ceasefire, Yeap Jun Rong at IG Asia said there were "expectations that the conflict may still be contained".

Israel's intensifying land and air campaign since Hamas's October 7 attacks has heightened fears for the 2.4 million civilians trapped inside Gaza, where the Hamas-ruled health ministry says more than 8,300 have died.

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Tel Aviv says more than 1,400 people, mainly civilians, were killed, with more than 230 people taken hostage.

With worries about supplies from the crude-rich Middle East subsiding for now, both main oil contracts edged up slightly Tuesday.

However, the mood was a little less cheery on equity markets, even after a rally on Wall Street.

Data showing China's factory sector activity shrank in October weighed on sentiment, dragging on Hong Kong and Shanghai, while there were also losses in Seoul, Manila and Jakarta.

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Tokyo was slightly lower ahead of the Bank of Japan's decision, with speculation swirling that it is talking about further relaxing its yield curve control (YCC), in which it allows bond yields to move within a tight band.

That has helped keep monetary policy ultra-loose as the BoJ tries to stimulate the economy, though with the Fed pushing borrowing costs to two-decade highs the yen has tumbled this year.

The Japanese unit was slightly lower in Asian trade, having bounced on Monday.

"Policy normalisation, to the extent it reverses the recent yen weakness, is a negative for Japanese stocks," said Chamath de Silva, of BetaShares Holdings.

"The Japanese market is particularly exporter heavy, hence a lot of yen sensitivity."

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 30,649.44 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.9 percent at 17,257.70

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,013.88

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Dollar/yen: UP at 149.46 yen from 149.06 yen on Monday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0603 from $1.0619

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2151 from $1.2168

Euro/pound: UP at 87.26 pence from 87.23 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.4 percent at $82.66 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.8 percent at $88.14 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 1.6 percent at 32,928.96 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 7,327.39 (close)

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Source: AFP

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