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Asia markets end strong week on positive note

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12th-Jan-2019       
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AFP, Hong Kong :
The upbeat tone that characterised this week helped Asian markets to fresh gains on Friday, with Hong Kong chalking up a sixth straight day of rises.
Investors globally have been riding a wave of optimism since the head of the Federal Reserve indicated it will likely slow its pace of interest rate hikes, while there were also signs that China and the US could eventually reach a trade deal.
And the gains were not limited to equities. Oil is up about 20 percent from 17-month lows at the end of December and high-yielding currencies were being supported by a new-found demand for riskier assets.
Friday's rally followed another positive lead from Wall Street, where dealers brushed off disappointing retail figures as they focused on the prospect that borrowing costs will not rise as much as previously feared.
Fed minutes Wednesday showed policymakers are happy to hold off any more rate hikes as they assess the state of the economy, backing up dovish comments last week by its head Jerome Powell. There was a slight wobble in New York after Powell on Thursday suggested the bank's securities holdings should be "substantially smaller" - a sell-off by the Fed of such assets would lift interest rates.  But the general mood remained upbeat as a number of other top Fed officials indicated they were happy to see a break in hikes.
"Markets are ultimately waiting to see if the Fed's new rhetoric related to stepping back, does it translate to action, and does the Fed actually pause at some point," Morgan Stanley economist Dan Skelly told Bloomberg TV in New York.
"That's really what we are waiting for to see a sustained move higher" in stocks, he said.
In Asia, Hong Kong rose 0.6 percent - meaning it has risen more than six percent since last Thursday's close and is at a one-month high - while Shanghai ended up 0.7 percent and Tokyo added one percent.
Singapore and Seoul each rose 0.6 percent, Taipei jumped 0.4 percent while there were also gains in Wellington, Bangkok and Jakarta, though Sydney, Manila and Mumbai eased.

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