Asian shares hit 7-year high on Ukraine, ECB hopes
Tokyo: Asian shares edged up to a seven-year high on Thursday on growing hopes of a ceasefire in Ukraine, while investors also warmed to the idea of more monetary easing from the European Central Bank in the near future.
MSCI`s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.15 percent in early trade, led by gains in South Korean shares. Japan`s Nikkei average shed 0.1 percent.
Global shares rallied on Wednesday as Russian President Vladimir Putin, after speaking to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko by phone, said he believed Kiev and pro-Russian separatists could reach agreement at planned talks in Minsk on Friday.
Poroshenko also indicated the conversation with Putin had injected some momentum into efforts to end a conflict, but Ukraine Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk dismissed the plan as a "deception", raising some doubts on whether such a deal was possible.
U.S. shares were dragged down by a fall in Apple, which was hit by concerns over a possible security breach of its iCloud service a week before the launch of its new iPhone and as rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd launched a new product.
The S&P 500 ended down 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.6 percent.
"I suspect hedge funds have started to unwind their long-Apple, short-Samsung positions ahead of the announcement of the new iPhone," said Norihiro Fujito, senior strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.
Samsung Electronics rose 2.0 percent in early trade.
The euro traded at $1.3151, off a one-year low of $1.3110 hit on Tuesday, supported by hopes of a ceasefire in Ukraine, as the European economy has taken the brunt of tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia.
In the near-term, the currency could see more short-covering given heavy selling in recent weeks on speculation that the ECB could start an asset-purchase programme soon.
While the ECB is unlikely to take action on Thursday, any hint from ECB president Mario Draghi that the bank is readying such a programme could drive down the euro.
In addition to the ECB, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England will have a policy meeting, though none of them is expected to change policy settings.
The yen traded at 104.83 yen to the dollar, off Wednesday`s eight-month low of 105.31.
Sterling hit a seven-month low of $1.6440 on Wednesday and last stood at $1.6463, not helped by jitters Scotland may vote to break up the UK in a referendum on Sept. 18.