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A currency trader walks by the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), right, and the foreign exchange rates at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Asian markets were mixed on Thursday after Wall Street closed at record highs. Data showed that China’s quarterly growth slowed slightly but was in line with expectations. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Business: Asian stocks mostly higher following tech recovery, oil deal

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stock markets were marginally higher Friday, after an overnight recovery of technology stocks on Wall Street. An agreement among key crude exporting countries to extend oil production cuts also boosted sentiment.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 was flat at 22,724.11 while South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.2 percent to 2,480.42. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.1 percent to 29,158.26 and China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost less than 0.1 percent to 3,316.50. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 5,981.20. Stocks in Southeast Asia were mostly higher.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “The recovery in technology stocks looks set to ignite a rebound for Asian equities into the end of the week,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore.

CHINA DATA: In China, the latest Caixin purchasing managers’ index showed that factory activity fell to its lowest level in five months in November while confidence about the business outlook also dropped. The indicator that shows a snapshot of operating conditions in China’s manufacturing economy registered 50.8 last month, down from 51.0 in October.

WALL STREET: On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average finished with its biggest gain since March and pushed it past the 24,000 mark for the first time. The Dow jumped 1.4 percent to 24,272.35. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 0.8 percent to 2,647.58 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.7 percent to 6,873.97. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked 0.1 percent to 1,544.14.

OIL: Crude oil prices gained after OPEC and a group of allied oil-producing nations agreed to extend crude output cuts until the end of next year. Benchmark U.S. crude added 20 cents to $57.60 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract finished at $57.40 per barrel on Thursday, up 10 cents. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 34 cents to $62.97 per barrel in London. It finished at $62.63 a barrel, up 10 cents in the previous day.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged higher to 112.57 yen from 112.54 yen while the euro rose slightly to $1.1907 from $1.1904.

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SENATE GOP HUSTLES TO MEET TAX BILL HOLDOUTS’ DEMANDS

Senate Republicans are stepping quickly to meet competing demands of holdout GOP senators for a tax overhaul package expected to add $1 trillion to the nation’s deficit over 10 years. The Republicans eye a crucial final vote Friday on the $1.4 trillion Senate bill carrying the hopes of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party to preserve their majorities in next year’s elections.

 

CHINA CRITICIZES US OPPOSITION TO WTO MARKET ECONOMY STATUS

The Chinese government on Friday criticized U.S. opposition to granting Beijing market economy status in the World Trade Organization as reminiscent of the Cold War. A U.S. document released Thursday in Geneva supports the European Union in opposing giving China market status, which would make it harder to win anti-dumping cases against Beijing for exporting goods at improperly low prices.

 

EU OFFICIAL IN IRELAND AS BORDER ISSUE BEDEVILS BREXIT TALKS

European Council leader Donald Tusk is due to meet Ireland’s prime minister in Dublin, with the status of the Irish border threatening to derail divorce talks between the EU and Britain. After Britain leaves the bloc in 2019, the currently invisible 310-mile (500-kilometer) frontier will be the U.K.’s only land border with an EU country.

 

GLOBAL STOCKS MIXED AFTER TECH RECOVERY, CHINA DATA

Global stocks were mixed on Friday after a technology stocks recovered from heavy selling the day before. An agreement among key crude exporting countries to extend oil production cuts boosted sentiment but weak China factory data tempered appetite for risk. Britain’s FTSE 100 dipped 0.2 percent to 7,310.50, France’s CAC 40 dropped 0.7 percent to 5,335.19, futures indicated a weak start on Wall Street and Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.4 percent to 22,819.03.

 

MISSOURI UNION OFFICIAL NOMINATED TO LEAD UAW

An influential caucus of United Auto Workers leaders has nominated a regional director from Missouri to be the union’s next president. Gary Jones will lead a slate of candidates to be voted on at 400,000-member union’s convention in June.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Is Santa Claus coming to town? Wall Street thinks so, even though stocks have already exceeded most expectations this year.

December on average is the best month for stocks. Investors call the gains a Santa Claus rally: a late-year boost that helps the markets end on a high note. Although there are some warning signs and reasons for concern, analysts have good cause to think December 2017 will bring more cheer.

From 1950 to 2016, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose an average of 1.6 percent in December. November was second, with an average gain of 1.5 percent. Jack Ablin, chief investment officer for BMO Capital Markets, said investors made a habit of buying at the end of the year to position themselves for January, when stocks typically did well. That set off a cycle.

“When I started in the business, I remember reading studies about the January Effect,” says Ablin, who’s worked in finance for three decades. “Once that became common knowledge, the January Effect turned into the December Effect, and now appears to be creeping into November, too.”

Stocks have climbed as the U.S. economy continued to grow and countries in other regions gained strength, all of which sent corporate profits higher. After a gain of 2.8 percent in November the S&P 500 has gained 18 percent so far this year, thanks in large part to big gains for technology companies such as Apple, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Facebook.

Meanwhile, central banks are still steadying the markets with bond purchases and low interest rates. The end of those stimulus programs are in sight, but by historic standards bond yields are low, which makes stocks more appealing as investments and borrowing money easier for people and companies to borrow money.

In the U.S., investors are pleased with President Donald Trump’s cuts in regulations and the prospect of lower corporate taxes. It’s also been a historically calm year for the market, with stock indexes hitting records at a steady pace without a lot of big moves up or down. Given all that, conditions seem right for further gains in in December.

“Chances are good that we end up with a positive final month of the year,” says Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Equity Research.

One concern for investors and experts is that stocks are expensive relative to their earnings. Then again, they’ve felt that way for most of the year and stocks kept going higher. Perhaps the wild card is the tax cut plan, which is still being debated in Congress and could be the coal in investors’ stockings if the measure appears likely to fail.

“If the Trump tax cut fails, I think the market goes into a 10 to 15 percent decline,” said Stovall. He said a corporate tax cut would help boost profits and stock prices next year, but without that tax cut, stock prices are too high right now.

And as usual, investors will keep a close eye on the Federal Reserve and the U.S. economy: stocks might falter if Wall Street gets the sense that economic growth isn’t strong enough, or a combination of weak growth and rising interest rates might slow the economy. Investors believe the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates at its meeting on Dec. 13.

Ablin, of BMO Capital Markets, says some investors might refrain from buying in December and wait until January for tax reasons. But even in a surprisingly good year, there’s reason to think the market will have a solid finish: When the S&P 500 is up 15 percent in the first 11 months of the year, it does better in December than it does in years with smaller gains, according to Ryan Detrick of LPL Financial.

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