Australian stocks rose 0.3 percent <.AXJO> ahead of what is expected
to be another round of record profit results by the country's major
The South Korean market edged 0.1 percent higher <.KS11> with
Samsung Electronics <005930.KS> reporting a 3.3 percent fall in
first quarter operating profit to 8.5 trillion won. That
still pipped market forecasts of 8.4 trillion and its shares were
steady in early trade.
The lack of momentum showed in MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific
shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> which was dead flat after
retreating by 1 percent on Monday.
Events in Ukraine provided an excuse for caution. The United States
slapped sanctions on seven Russian government officials and 17
companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a fresh
attempt to force Moscow to back down from its intervention in
Wall Street put in another erratic performance but mostly ended in
the black. The Dow <.DJI> closed 0.53 percent firmer, while the S&P
500 <.SPX> added 0.32 percent. The Nasdaq <.IXIC> finished flat amid
falls in Amazon <AMZN.O> and Facebook <FB.O>.
What gains there were owed much to the M&A fever in pharmaceuticals.
Pfizer Inc <PFE.N> said it approached Britain's AstraZeneca Plc <AZN.L>
<AZN.N> to reignite a potential $100 billion takeover but was
rebuffed, stoking speculation of a bidding war.
AstraZeneca shares rallied 14.4 percent in London, while Pfizer rose
4.2 percent. It was the biggest gainer in the Dow and the
fourth-biggest by percentage points in the S&P 500.
The potential, albeit distant, that Pfizer might need pounds to pay
for the bid gave speculators a reason to go long on sterling. The
currency climbed to a four-and-a-half year peak on the dollar at
$1.6856 before fading to $1.6808.
The euro followed the pound higher to as far as $1.3879, aided in
part by a Reuters report playing down the chance of any near-term
easing in euro zone monetary policy.
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European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told lawmakers from
Germany's ruling coalition on Monday that low inflation would
persist in the euro zone but quantitative easing remains some way
off, according to a source who took part in the meeting.
On Tuesday, the euro was holding at $1.3855 and still well within
the $1.3783/1.3905 band that has held for the last couple of weeks.
The dollar has been equally range-bound on the yen, bouncing back
and forth between 101.95 and 102.72 for the past seven sessions. It
was hovering at 102.48 on Tuesday as investors waited to see if this
week's Federal Reserve policy meeting or U.S. jobs data provided the
impetus to break the range.
In commodity markets, Brent crude oil was 10 cents higher at $108.22
a barrel on Tuesday, but that followed a drop over a dollar on
Monday when Libya paved the way to restart exports at a second port
after a deal with rebels to unblock major terminals.
U.S. crude added 8 cents to $100.92 a barrel.
Spot gold faded to $1,295.96 an ounce after failing to break
resistance around $1,306.00.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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