Asia Markets: Hong Kong stocks turn a corner, gain for first time in a week

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Asia-Pacific stock markets had a largely muted start to the week, though some buying built into midday, as investors mulled over the U.S. Senate’s passing of a tax-reform proposal and the special counsel’s probe of President Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to federal investigators. In a Monday morning note to clients, ANZ bank said Flynn was, by himself, not important for markets. “But the fact that he is now cooperating with the investigation and could implicate key people further up the chain is [important].”

The probe had an impact on Friday’s market action in the U.S., aggravated in part by what later was proved to be an erroneous report about Mr. Flynn and the investigation.

S&P 500 futures were recently up 0.6%. The U.S. index finished down 0.2% Friday.

Many Asia-Pacific indexes were within 0.3% of Friday’s closes Monday, but the U.S. dollar jumped. The WSJ Dollar Index was recently up 0.3%, with the currency up a half yen versus late-Friday New York levels at ¥112.75.

But that didn’t help the Nikkei NIK, -0.49%  , which finished morning trading down 0.1% despite 1% to 2% gains in oil firms Inpex 1605, +1.46%   and Japan Petroleum 1662, +1.59%  . But precision-instrument makers experienced declines, with Olympus 7733, -4.67%   down 3.4%.

One morning highlight was Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, +0.42%  .

Falling every day last week and logging its first five-session slide in 13 months, the benchmark ended the morning up 0.7% as oil stocks rose there as well. That was despite oil pulling back about 0.5% in Asia following crude’s end-of-week jump, which was stoked by a weaker dollar.

Meanwhile, index heavyweight Tencent 0700, +1.77%   rebounded 1.8% and insurer Ping An 2318, +2.78%  , which also pulled back notably as November ended, rose 2.5%. “The weakness in Tencent and Ping An is attracting interest from value buyers,” said Castor Pang, head of research for Core Pacific-Yamaichi International.

Tech in general also started the week solidly. After declines last week, benchmarks in Korea SEU, +0.81%   and Taiwan Y9999, +0.48%   rose about 0.5%, while the large-cap CSI 300 in China ended the morning up 0.8%.

The S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -0.07%   was down 0.1%. There were gains for commodity companies, led by big miners BHP Billiton BHP, +1.56%   and Rio Tinto RIO, +1.24%  , but continued weakness for the country’s major banks. They’re facing a sweeping investigation, now a 12-month inquiry is being set up following a string of finance-industry scandals.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s stock benchmark JAKIDX, -1.80%   rebounded 1% in early trading after seeing a nearly 100-point downward revision at Thursday’s close, and was recently at 6,015. But the JSX is up 14% this year and has been setting record closing highs of late.

Also, bitcoin BTCUSD, +4.09%   pulled back from its latest record high near $12,000 set Sunday afternoon in the U.S. but it remained higher than the $9500 levels in Asia on Friday afternoon. Steady gains during the rest of Friday’s global session — helped by the looming planned launch of bitcoin futures in the U.S. — got it to $11,000 at day’s end.

It stuck around that level before starting to rally as daybreak neared Sunday on the U.S. East Coast, briefly topping $11,800. It then dropped swiftly, nearly hitting $10,500 within two hours. Bitcoin was recently back up to $11,300.