Asian shares hit 7-year high on Ukraine, ECB hopes

Tags: Stock Market
Asian shares edged up to a seven-year high on Thursday on growing hopes of a ceasefire in Ukraine, while investors also warmed to the idea of more monetary easing from the European Central Bank in the near future.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.15% in early trade, led by gains in South Korean shares. Japan's Nikkei average shed 0.1%.

Global shares rallied on Wednesday as Russian President Vladimir Putin, after speaking to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko by phone, said he believed Kiev and pro-Russian separatists could reach agreement at planned talks in Minsk on Friday.

Poroshenko also indicated the conversation with Putin had injected some momentum into efforts to end a conflict, but Ukraine Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk dismissed the plan as a "deception", raising some doubts on whether such a deal was possible.

US shares were dragged down by a fall in Apple, which was hit by concerns over a possible security breach of its iCloud service a week before the launch of its new iPhone and as rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd launched a new product.

The S&P 500 ended down 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.6%.

"I suspect hedge funds have started to unwind their long-Apple, short-Samsung positions ahead of the announcement of the new iPhone," said Norihiro Fujito, senior strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Samsung Electronics rose 2.0% in early trade.

The euro traded at $1.3151, off a one-year low of $1.3110 hit on Tuesday, supported by hopes of a ceasefire in Ukraine, as the European economy has taken the brunt of tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia.

In the near-term, the currency could see more short-covering given heavy selling in recent weeks on speculation that the ECB could start an asset-purchase programme soon.

While the ECB is unlikely to take action on Thursday, any hint from ECB president Mario Draghi that the bank is readying such a programme could drive down the euro.

In addition to the ECB, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England will have a policy meeting, though none of them is expected to change policy settings.

The yen traded at 104.83 yen to the dollar, off Wednesday's eight-month low of 105.31.

Sterling hit a seven-month low of $1.6440 on Wednesday and last stood at $1.6463, not helped by jitters Scotland may vote to break up the UK in a referendum on Sept. 18.

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