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Asia Pacific Market Update

Major Asian stocks close mixed on final trading week

Major Asian equities closed mostly lower on the first day of the final trading week for 2015, with the Japanese market advancing, while the South Korean Kospi fell 1 percent and the Shanghai Composite seeing declines of near 2.6 percent.

Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital, said in a note last week that shares will likely see their “traditional Santa Claus rally over the Christmas/New Year period as investors take advantage of improved valuations, monetary conditions remain easy and new issuance dries up into year end.”

However, Oliver warned about the Federal Reserve and a strong dollar “possibly weighing on commodity prices and emerging countries may mean that volatility will remain high.”

In the News:

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Wall Street onMonday, as crude oil prices fell following the Christmas weekend. Allmajor averages gained more than 2 percent last week, and the S&P 500 turned positive on the year. (CNBC)

U.S. crude and internationally traded Brent were trading roughly at parity after flip-flopping between premium and discount throughout the weekend. Both were lower in early trade on Monday. (Reuters)

Gold followed oil lower, failing to attract safe haven bids despite a weaker dollar. (Reuters)

Chinese stocks slid more than 2 percent on Monday on weak industrial profit data and as Chinese regulators approved a proposal to reform China’s initial public offering system. South Korea’s Kospi fell 1 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei advanced. (CNBC)
China passed anti-terrorism legislation on Sunday over the objections of tech companies and the U.S. government. The new law would, among other things, require Internet companies operating within the country toprovide encryption keys and passwords to the government when requested. (Re/code)

Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei on Monday said the government would begin next year to “reasonably” set limits on new local government debt. China will also gradually increase its fiscal deficit ratio, expand its budget deficit, and cut taxes to support businesses, according to the finance ministry. (Reuters)

Japan and South Korea overcame a significant diplomatic stumbling block after reaching an agreement on so-called “comfort women”forced to work in brothels by the Japanese in war time. Japan admitted “deep responsibility” for the issue and will contribute to a fund to help victims. (Reuters)

Iraq announced Monday that government forces have retaken Ramadifrom Islamic State militants. IS captured the largest city in western Anbar province in May. (Reuters)

Tornadoes, blizzards and heavy rain assaulted much of the country’s middle section over the weekend, killing more than 20 people and triggering governors to call for a state of emergency in Missouri, New Mexico, and Texas. (NBC News)

A Chicago officer shot and killed a male college student and a mother of five, both black, on Saturday. The police department, which is under federal investigation for its use of deadly force and officer discipline, said the woman’s death was both accidental and tragic. (CNBC/Reuters)

The Wall Street Journal continued to put a spotlight on Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes this weekend in a lengthy article, in which former employees and other people with ties to the firm recalled dubious claims and troubling statements from the executive about the viability of her blood-testing startup’s technology. (WSJ)
STOCKS TO WATCH:

Alphabet‘s (GOOGL) YouTube was called out by Barron’s for its impressive growth, enormous user base, and Alphabet’s cash return to investors. Barron’s said shares of Alphabet could rise 30 percent to more than $1,000 in 2016, but warned Facebook‘s (FB) improving video platform poses a threat.

Amazon (AMZN) said its Prime service had a “record-setting” holiday. More than 3 million members joined Prime in the third week of December, bringing its total membership to “tens of millions,” a spokesperson said. Amazon also said it sold “millions” of its devices, doubling last year’s device sales.

Sharp Corp shares jumped about 7 percent on local media reports that Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, one of the largest suppliers of electronics products, proposed buying the Japanese company for 300 billion yen ($2.45 billion).

FedEx (FDX) was forced to run extra shifts to clear a backlog of deliveries through Christmas day. A spokesperson cited a combination of unforeseen volume and severe winter weather for the delay.

 

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