January 17, 2019 / 12:38 AM / 6 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia shares edge up, pound gets moment's peace

(Adds Nikkei, KOSPI, updates prices throughout)

* Asian stock markets: tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4

* Nikkei futures point to firm start

* Solid bank results buoy Wall St

* Pound supported as May wins confidence vote

* Eyes on China stimulus after PBOC adds liquidity

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Asian shares crept higher on Thursday as upbeat bank earnings bolstered Wall Street, while an anti-climactic end to the latest chapter in the Brexit saga gave sterling a moment's peace.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 percent, with Australia and South Korea's KOSPI ahead by 0.2 percent each.

Japan's Nikkei climbed 0.3 percent.

However, E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 dipped 0.1 percent during early Asian hours.

On Wall Street, strong earnings from Bank of America and Goldman Sachs eased worries about the earnings outlook. Bank of America shares jumped 7.2 percent and Goldman 9.5 percent.

The Dow ended Wednesday with gains of 0.59 percent, while the S&P 500 added 0.22 percent and the Nasdaq 0.15 percent.

Investors in Asia might be less encouraged by a Wall Street Journal report that U.S. federal prosecutors were investigating Huawei Technologies, the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker, for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. businesses and could soon issue an indictment.

Such a move could inflame tensions between Beijing and Washington and make a trade deal yet harder.

China's central bank on Wednesday moved to avert a cash crunch in the economy by injecting a record $83 billion into the country's financial system.

Also looming in the background were concerns the U.S. government shutdown was starting to take a toll on its economy.

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said the shutdown would shave 0.13 percent off quarterly economic growth for each week it goes on.


As expected, British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly won a confidence vote overnight and invited other party leaders for talks to try to break the impasse on a Brexit divorce deal.

An outline for Plan 'B' is due by Monday and the market assumes there will have to be an extension of the Article 50 exit date past March 29.

"Nothing has happened in the last 24 hours to dissuade us from the view that we are headed in the direction of an Article 50 delay, a softer Brexit or no Brexit," said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at NAB.

"But it remains too soon to be buying sterling with your ears pinned back," he added, noting many uncertainties remained.

All of which left the pound firm at $1.2877, though still short of Monday's peak at $1.2929. It fared well on the euro, which hit a seven-week low before steadying at 88.45 pence .

The lessening of Brexit risk pressured the safe-haven yen and helped the U.S. dollar up to 109. The euro eased back to $1.1396 while the dollar index was flat at 96.059 .

In commodity markets, palladium hit record highs thanks to increasing demand and lower supply of the metal used in auto catalysts. Spot gold held steady at $1,293.96 per ounce.

Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Kim Coghill

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