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Asian shares consolidate recent gains as markets ponder Xi’s speech

People walk past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, on Oct. 16, 2017.

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Asian shares consolidated recent gains and currencies kept to tight ranges on Wednesday as investors waited to see what policies might emerge from China's Communist Party conference.

The twice-a-decade congress is expected to cement the authority of President Xi Jinping, who kicks off the week-long event with a speech outlining his plans for the next five years.

Markets are keen for any direction on economic and financial market reform, though history suggests these events can be light on detail.

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On Tuesday, the United States again declined to name China as a currency manipulator although it remained critical of the Chinese government's economic policies ahead of a planned visit to Beijing by President Donald Trump.

Recent economic data from the Asian giant has been generally upbeat, fuelling a tide of optimism about global growth that has benefited shares across the region.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.13 per cent, near their highest since late 2007, while Australia was a fraction firmer.

Japan's Nikkei added 0.3 per cent and was trying to string together a 12th straight session of gains. The bullish mood on equities was evident in the latest fund manager survey from BofA Merrill Lynch.

"For the first time in six years, Goldilocks trumps secular stagnation, with a record high 48 per cent of investors surveyed expecting above-trend economic growth and below-trend inflation," the survey found.

Investors were bearish on bonds with 82 per cent of those surveyed expecting yields to rise in the next 12 months and a record 85 per cent believing bonds were overvalued.

Indeed, yields on two-year Treasury paper have hit their highest since November 2008 amid speculation President Trump could chose a more hawkish leader to replace Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

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Interest rates futures imply around a 90 per cent probability of a Fed hike in December.

The shift upward in yields lifted the dollar to one-week top against a basket of currencies, and kept it steady on the yen at 112.20.

The euro was holding at $1.1777, still some way above the recent low and major chart support at $1.1667.

Dealers were wary ahead of speeches by several policymakers from the European Central Bank due later on Wednesday, which includes President Mario Draghi.

The biggest mover had been Mexico's peso which boasted its biggest rise in over four months after trade ministers from the United States, Canada and Mexico extended the deadline on a contentious round of talks.

On Wall Street, the Dow ended up a slim 0.18 per cent having briefly broken above the 23,000-point mark for the first time on Tuesday, while the S&P 500 gained 0.07 per cent and the Nasdaq dipped 0.01 per cent.

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Shares in IBM jumped nearly 5 per cent after hours as a shift to newer businesses such as cloud and security services helped it beat Wall Street's quarterly revenue estimates.

In commodity markets, talk of higher U.S. interest rates kept gold pinned at $1,286.41 an ounce.

Oil prices started stronger with Brent crude futures up 38 cents at $58.26 per barrel, while U.S. crude gained 19 cents to $52.07.

Bombardier-Airbus partnership will help avoid U.S. duties (The Canadian Press)
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