Aussie dollar hits 29-year peak; Seoul shares shine

By @ibtimes on

The Australian dollar hit a fresh 29-year high and South Korea's benchmark share index touched another record intraday high on Monday, suggesting investors were still eager to embrace risk and higher-yielding assets.

Commodities pushed higher with spot gold hitting a record high of $1,517.71 an ounce and U.S. silver futures scaling a 31-year peak.

The dollar edged up 0.1 percent against a basket of currencies to 74.086 <.DXY>, but remained within sight of a trough of 73.735 struck last week, its lowest since August 2008.

The dollar rose 0.4 percent against the yen to 82.22 yen, supported by dollar-buying by Japanese importers and as traders took aim at stop-loss dollar buying orders said to be lurking near 82.50 yen.

The market is thin today because London is closed today, and people are basically just trying to trigger stops, said a trader at a Japanese bank, referring to Easter Monday holidays across much of Europe.

Markets are looking to a news conference by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday after the bank's two-day policy meeting to see how the central bank plans to exit from its super-easy monetary policy.

Traders are also nervously watching Greece after newspaper reports that it is considering extending maturities on its sovereign debt as one option for a possible restructuring.

Most Asian stock markets were sluggish as they reopened after the long Easter weekend, but South Korea's benchmark stock index clawed above a peak scaled last week and hit another record intraday high. The benchmark index was last up 0.9 percent at 2,217.59 <.KS11>.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei share average dipped 0.1 percent <.N225>, but gains in shippers helped temper losses.

Japan's Nikkei business daily reported at the weekend that earnings sharply rebounded at three major marine transport companies in the year that ended on March 31.

Mitsui OSK Lines <9104.T> rose 2 percent, Nippon Yusen <9101.T> gained 1.3 percent and Kawasaki Kisen <9107.T> added 0.7 percent.

The shippers' gains are straightforward. The expectations for good results reflect strong demand in the global economy and they suffered relatively little damage from the March earthquake, said Naoki Fujiwara, a fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management.

The Australian dollar, which tends to attract buying when the global economy is doing well and commodity prices rise, touched a 29-year high of $1.0777. It later trimmed its gains to stand at $1.0735, little changed on the day.

U.S. crude futures oil rose as violence in Syria and Yemen escalated over the weekend, stirring fears of supply disruptions from the Middle East and North Africa.

NYMEX crude for June delivery edged up 30 cents a barrel to $112.59.

U.S. 10-year Treasuries were little changed in price to yield 3.396 percent, down about 1 basis point from late U.S. trade on Thursday. The U.S. Treasury market was closed on Friday for a U.S. holiday.

Stock markets in Australia and Hong Kong were closed on Monday for a holiday. (Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa and Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; Editing by Kim Coghill.)

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