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Asia Shares Up, Oil Down As Syria Fallout Seen Limited

SYDNEY (REUTERS) – Share markets started firmer in Asia on Monday (April 16) amid relief US-led strikes on Syria looked like being a one-off event that avoided a direct confrontation with Russia, weighing on oil prices and safe-haven Treasuries.

EMini futures for the S&P 500 sprang 0.6 per cent higher in early trade, while Japan’s Nikkei added 0.3 per cent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 per cent.

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Douma on April 7.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs, as Washington prepared to increase pressure on Russia with new economic sanctions.

But with President Donald Trump declaring mission accomplished, investors wagered the worst had been avoided.

“Trump was able to enforce his chemical weapons red line without crossing the threshold for Russian retaliation,” said analysts at JPMorgan in a note.

“Stocks were concerned about a prolonged and expanded US campaign towards Assad and that doesn’t look probable.” Safe-haven assets eased in response, with yields on US 10-year Treasury debt up two basis points at 2.84 per cent.

The US dollar inched up 0.2 per cent on the yen to 107.53 yen, and away from last week’s low around 106.62.

The euro was flat at US$1.2330, while the dollar index was a fraction firmer at 89.803.

In commodity markets, gold dipped 0.1 per cent to US$1,343.70 an ounce, and remained well short of last week’s peak at US$1,365.23.

Oil prices slipped with Brent crude futures off 31 cents at US$72.27 a barrel, while US crude fell 26 cents to US$67.13 a barrel.

Looking ahead, the US earnings season kicks into high gear this week with Thomson Reuters data predicting profits at S&P 500 companies increased by 18.6 per cent in the first quarter from a year ago, their biggest rise in seven years.

Yet with expectations so high, bank shares ran into profit-taking on Friday after a batch of mixed results.

In Asia, China reports its gross domestic product for the first quarter on Tuesday with market forecasts clustered around growth of 6.7 per cent to 6.8 per cent.

The US reports retail sales later Monday and there are around 15 Federal Reserve speakers in the diary for the week.

Also this week, the IMF will hold its annual Spring meetings of central bankers and finance ministers in Washington.

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