Asia markets up as focus turns to Trump speech

Shares in Tokyo and Sydney rose Wednesday in another holiday-thinned trading day as investors tracked a positive lead from Wall Street and await Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.

With most of the region off for the Lunar New Year break there were few catalysts to drive business, though Japanese investors are also looking forward to the release of Toyota’s earnings after the market close.

Trump’s annual address will be pored over for an idea about his thinking
on a range of issues including the China trade war, the Mexican border wall
standoff and North Korea.

His comments on border security will be “the main focus for markets given
that Trump has hinted at the possibility of declaring a national emergency…
in order to fund his much desired wall along the Mexican border”, said
Rodrigo Catril, strategist at National Australia Bank.

“The political ramifications from such an announcement… could rattle
markets.”

The president’s battle with House Democrats over the wall brought the US
government to a standstill for more than a month before it was reopened for
three weeks, with the two sides unable to reach an agreement.

“Given Trump’s hard to predict antics the market could be in for a treat,
one that includes a seldom seen side of the US president,” said Alfonso
Esparza, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“Conciliatory Trump could be on the menu, but unlikely as he has preferred
antagonizing his opponents, then again that tactic was not successful with
the newly emboldened Democrats so it’s not time to rule anything out.”

In early trade Tokyo was up 0.4 percent and Sydney added 0.6 percent while
Manila jumped more than one percent.

On currency markets the pound was virtually unchanged against the dollar
after tumbling Tuesday on weak economic data and growing concerns about
Britain leaving the EU without a deal, which analysts warn could be
catastrophic.

The prospect of such a scenario has led a number of companies to delay
making decisions on new projects, while others have already decided to shift
their headquarters or production lines.

– Key figures around 0200 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 20,921.96

Sydney – S&P/ASX 200: UP 0.6 percent at 6,039.80

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2952 from $1.2953 at 2200 GMT on Tuesday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1400 from $1.1403

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.93 yen from 109.97

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP five cents at $53.71 per barrel

Oil – Brent Crude: UP six cents at $62.04 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 25,411.52 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 2.0 percent at 7,177.37 (close)