* Asia higher but markets edgy about U.S. growth prospects
* European markets set for positive start
* Sterling steady after overnight declines on London attack
* Oil higher as traders see buying opportunity but glut
By Nichola Saminather
SINGAPORE, March 23 Asian stocks edged up on
Thursday, while the dollar's gains were limited as U.S.
President Donald Trump's struggle to push through a healthcare
reform bill raised doubts over whether he can win support for
pro-growth economic policy measures.
European markets are poised for a stronger start, with
financial spreadbetter CMC Markets expecting Britain's FTSE 100
to open 0.1 percent higher, Germany's DAX to be
up 0.4 percent and France's CAC 40 to begin the day 0.2
Having weakened as much as 0.4 percent a day earlier,
sterling was steady at $1.2489, showing little reaction
to the attack close to Britain's Parliament that left five
people dead, including the attacker and a police officer, and 40
injured. Police said they believed the attacker was inspired by
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
advanced 0.2 percent.
Japan's Nikkei closed 0.2 percent higher, as a
weaker yen offset a political scandal over the relationship of
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife with a Japanese
nationalist education group that bought state-owned land at a
fraction of its appraised price to build an elementary school.
China's CSI 300 had made early gains on hopes that
index compiler MSCI may include A-shares in its indices, but
those gains were lost as money began flowing out of the mainland
market through link to the Hong Kong exchange.
The Shanghai Composite dropped 0.3 percent, while
the H-share index added 0.2 percent. Hong Kong's Hang
Seng retreated 0.1 percent.
Overnight, the Nasdaq jumped 0.5 percent and the S&P
500 closed 0.2 percent higher, while the Dow Jones
Industrial Average was flat, after all three touched
their lowest levels in about five weeks earlier in the session.
The dollar advanced 0.2 percent to 111.37 yen,
after dropping to 110.75, its lowest since Nov. 22 overnight.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against
a basket of six trade-weighted peers, added 0.1 percent to
99.76, after touching a seven-week low overnight.
Trump has been trying to rally support for his plan to
repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Democratic former President
Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation.
On Wednesday, Trump and Republican leaders of the House of
Representatives said they were making progress in their efforts
to win over conservative Republicans who have demanded changes
to the legislation. They plan a vote on the bill, Trump's first
major legislation since he took office, later on Thursday.
"The vote on Obamacare is a litmus test for Trump," said
Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities
in Tokyo. "If he can't push through the bill, it would further
damage stocks. It also raises the risk of his other policies,
like tax cuts, being delayed."
Investors in Asia are awaiting a rate decision from Taiwan's
central bank, which is expected to remain on hold. Ahead of that
announcement, the island unveiled a stimulus package of T$882.4
billion ($28.95 billion) over eight years, subject to
The U.S. dollar was little changed at 30.492 Taiwan dollars
, and Taiwan stocks closed about 0.1 percent
The New Zealand dollar was steady at $0.7046 after
the central bank held interest rates at a record low 1.75
percent, and reiterated it would remain there for a
"considerable" period of time, citing global volatility and U.S.
In commodities markets, oil prices rebounded, after touching
their lowest level since November overnight on data that showed
U.S. inventories, already at a record high, grew by far more
Analysts said oil had found technical support and was being
pushed up as traders took new long positions after the overnight
low, but supply concerns kept the gains in check.
U.S. crude added 0.75 percent to $48.40 a barrel on
Global benchmark Brent climbed 0.7 percent to
The dollar's recovery weighed on gold, which
retreated 0.25 percent to $1,245.60 after hitting a three-week
($1 = 111.4600 yen)
($1 = 30.4790 Taiwan dollars)
(Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Simon