Asian equities rise after China data, BOK rate cut

Asian equity markets tide over a data-heavy Thursday with advances across the board.

Wall Street handed over an inspiring lead, by closing up more than 1 percent amid signs of encouraging developments in the Greece debt talks.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Mainland indexes up

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite index ended up 0.3 percent amid choppy trade as the release of April fixed asset investment, together with May retail sales and industrial production, matched analysts' expectations.

However, weakness in the banking sector capped the bourse's advance. Bank of Communications and Bank of China were among the hardest-hit, down 3.6 and 2.7 percent, respectively, as disappointment from MSCI's decision to not include mainland-listed A-shares in its emerging market index lingered. The U.S. index provider on Wednesday postponed the inclusion, citing issues related to quota allocation process, capital mobility restrictions and beneficial ownership of investments.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index bounced of a two-month closing low to end up 0.8 percent.

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Kospi adds 0.3%

South Korea's Kospi index snapped a four-day losing streak on Thursday, while the South Korean won witnessed volatile trade on the back of a 25-basis-point rate cut by the Bank of Korea. After falling as much as 0.6 percent to 1,114.8, the local currency eventually finished Asian trade at 1,108.8 per dollar.

The central bank's decision was in line with the expectations of economists polled by Reuters, as worries deepened over the country's outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

On the corporate news front, Tong Yang Life Insurance ended up 1.06 percent on news that the country's Financial Services Commission approved Anbang Insurance Group's purchase of a controlling stake in the South Korean insurer.

Builder Samsung C&T remained in focus after saying it would sell 9 million common treasury shares to construction materials firm KCC Corp by Friday and make KCC the fourth-largest individual shareholder of the company. The stake sale sets the scene for a protracted battle against U.S. activist fund Elliott, which on Tuesday sought an injunction to block a takeover deal of Samsung C&T by Cheil Industries.

Shares of Samsung C&T declined 7.07 percent, while Cheil Industries - the de facto holding company of Samsung Group - advanced 0.8 percent.

Nikkei jumps 1.7%

Japan's Nikkei 225 staged a strong comeback from Wednesday's three-week closing low, as the yen weakened 0.6 percent versus the U.S. dollar in Asian trade.

Dollar-yen was last quoted at 123.45, a day after hitting its lowest level in two weeks following comments from Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda who said the currency's real effective exchange rate is unlikely to weaken further.

Among exporters, Sony led gains with a 2.9 percent jump, while Toyota Motor and Mitsubishi Electric closed up 1.7 and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, transport counters topped the leaderboard on Thursday, with Central Japan Railway and West Japan Railway soaring more than 5 percent each. Financials also helped to prop up the bourse after the likes of Mizuho Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group closed up more than 1 percent each.

Tokio Marine Holdings pared earlier gains to close down 0.45 percent following news that it will be buying New York-listed HCC Insurance Holdings for about $7.5 billion.

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ASX rises 1.4%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index ended at a one-week high, supported by a robust jobs report which showed the economy adding 42,000 jobs last month. The figure beat Reuters expectations for an addition of 11,000 jobs, helping the Australian dollar to rise a quarter of a U.S. cent to $0.7772 versus the greenback.

Thursday's gains marked the Sydney bourse's biggest advance in seven weeks.

Miners leaped as iron ore prices continued its march higher above $65 a tonne. Market bellwether BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto closed up more than 2 percent each, while Fortescue Metals surged 6.4 percent. Elsewhere in the resources sector, Oil Search and Santos climbed 4.4 and 2.5 percent, respectively.

Banking counters were also on a tear, with National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking finishing 2.1 and 2.3 percent higher, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) cut its benchmark cash rate for the first time in four years early Thursday, while keeping the door open to more easing.

Following the central bank decision, the New Zealand dollar tumbled almost two cents against the U.S. dollar to $0.7011 - its lowest since September 2010. The key stock index closed up 1 percent.

"This morning's cut was a surprise. Only 6 out of 16 economists [polled by Reuters] were calling for a cut and the market was pricing in a 46 percent chance," Evan Lucas, IG's market strategist, wrote in a note. "Governor Wheeler is clearly concerned about Auckland's housing market, but the state of the whole economy forced his hand. It looks and sounds very similar to the bind [Reserve Bank of Australia] governor Glenn Stevens finds himself in with Sydney and the rest of the Australian economy."