Pound rises as early Scottish results favor union

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HONG KONG (AP) — Japanese stocks rallied as the yen extended losses against the dollar while the pound jumped as investors bet that Scottish voters would reject independence based on early results from the referendum. Other Asian benchmarks were subdued for lack of major economic data.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.4 percent to 16,296.40, the highest level since December, as the yen's weakness made exports cheaper for overseas buyers and local stocks more affordable for foreign investors. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.6 percent to 2,060.34 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.2 percent to 24,218.16. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China slipped 0.1 percent to 2,314.75 and Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.2 percent to 5,426.00.

CURRENCIES: The yen is at its lowest in more than six years; its rapid decline against the dollar has been driven by expectations the Federal Reserve will raise rates while the Bank of Japan will maintain its stimulus program. The dollar strengthened to 109.23 yen, up 0.4 percent from 108.77 in late trading Thursday. The pound jumped after early signs indicated that voters in Scotland would choose to remain a part of Britain. Sterling rose 0.4 percent to $1.6509 from $1.6445.

SCOTLAND: With a lack of major economic data slated for release Friday in Asia, investors were awaiting the results of the Scottish vote, which would shake the U.K economy and markets if Scotland voted for independence. Vote counting was underway at 32 regional centers across Scotland. Early results suggested Scotland would stay in the United Kingdom.

THE QUOTE: "Traders are keenly anticipating results of the poll, now primed around 2 p.m. Singapore time, where a confirmation of current projections may have already been priced in, with any surprise 'Yes' victory likely to reverse the rally from the previous few sessions," said Desmond Chua of CMC Markets in Singapore.

ALI-BUSTER: The jumbo initial public offering by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group in New York will cap the week for investors. The company set its IPO price at $68 per share — the top end of the range — to value the company at nearly $168 billion. The stock starts trading later Friday.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 0.6 percent to close Thursday at 17,265.99, the second day in a row the blue chip index has closed at a record. The S&P 500 gained 0.5 percent to 2,011.36 while the Nasdaq composite 0.7 percent to 4,593.43.

ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil slipped 18 cents to $92.89 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.35 to close at $93.07 a barrel on Thursday.