Wed10182017

LAST_UPDATEWed, 18 Oct 2017 8pm

Asia Stocks Shake Off Wall St. Blues, Sterling Steady Pre-Brexit Talks

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SINGAPORE: Asian stocks rose on Monday, shaking off Wall Street's subdued performance on Friday, and sterling was steady after a van rammed into worshippers leaving a London mosque, killing at least one person, as markets braced for the start of Brexit talks.

European stock markets were set for a strong start to the week, with financial spreadbetter CMC Markets expecting Britain's FTSE 100 .FTSE to open 0.6 percent higher, France's CAC 40 .FCHI to be up 0.3 percent and Germany's DAX .GDAXI 0.2 percent.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.7 percent.

Japan's Nikkei .N225 climbed 0.6 percent.

Australian shares added 0.3 percent and South Korea's KOSPI .KS11 rose 0.4 percent.

Chinese blue-chip shares .CSI300 advanced 0.8 percent on signs tight liquidity conditions were easing. Data showing home prices rose 10.4 percent in May from a year ago, although slowing from April's 10.7 percent gain, helped boost real estate stocks.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng .HSI gained 0.9 percent.

"Generally, the environment still remains fairly positive for risk appetite," said Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in Singapore.

"Now that the (Federal Reserve interest rate decision) is out of the way, the focus, for this region anyway, will remain on whether the economic environment will stay positive and the recovery will continue."

On Friday, Wall Street ended mixed, with energy names offsetting declines in consumer stocks, which were clobbered by Amazon.com's $13.7 billion deal to buy upscale grocer Whole Foods Market.

The S&P 500 index .SPX closed flat, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI ended up 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC lost 0.2 percent.

Europe had a more upbeat session on Friday, with British .FTSE, German .GDAXI and French .FCHI stocks, as well as the broader STOXX Europe 600 , closing higher.

The British pound GBP=D3 was flat at $1.2777 after a van rammed into worshippers as they were leaving a Finsbury Park mosque in North London early on Monday.

Police said one man had been pronounced dead and 10 people were injured, in what Britain's largest Muslim organization said was a deliberate act of Islamophobia. The van driver has been arrested.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said police confirmed the incident was being treated as a potential terrorist attack.

Brexit Secretary David Davis starts negotiations in Brussels on Monday, which will be followed by a Brussels summit on Thursday and Friday where May will encounter - but not negotiate with - fellow European Union leaders.

Davis's agreement to Monday's agenda led some EU officials to believe that May's government may at last be coming around to Brussels' view of how negotiations should be run for Britain's exit from the EU. May's own immediate political survival is in doubt after she lost her parliamentary majority in an election.

Projections showing a strong parliamentary majority for French President Emmanuel Macron following Sunday's vote, giving him a powerful mandate to push through pro-business reforms, lent support to the euro.

The common currency was steady at $1.1195 EUR=EBS, retaining Friday's 0.5 percent gain.

The dollar was little changed on Monday. On Friday, it fell after U.S. homebuilding dropped for a third month in May to the lowest in eight months and a barometer of U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly fell in early June, prompting concerns about the Federal Reserve's plans to stick with its monetary policy tightening.

The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six global peers, was little changed at 97.182, failing to make up any of Friday's 0.3 percent loss.

The market is awaiting comments by New York Fed President William Dudley, a close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, when he speaks at a business roundtable in New York state.

"In the wake of Friday's weak U.S. data, Dudley could provide insight into whether the Fed is still poised to continue normalising monetary policy," said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

"My view is that Dudley won't sound too dovish, and thus allow the dollar's gradual rise to resume."

The greenback fared better against the Japanese yen JPY=D4, which remained weak after the Bank of Japan left its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged last week.

The yen didn't respond to data on Monday showing Japanese exports rose at their fastest pace in May since January 2015.

The dollar added 0.1 percent to 110.98 yen JPY=, after touching a two-week high on Friday.

In commodities, oil futures lingered near six-week lows, as concerns about a supply glut amid faltering demand.

U.S. crude CLc1 slipped 0.35 percent to $44.58 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent LCOc1 dropped 0.3 percent to $47.21.

Gold touched a 3-1/2-week low earlier in the session, and was trading down slightly at $1,252.70 an ounce at 0500 GMT.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

- Reuters