Asia Markets

Asia stocks mostly higher as Fed optimism supports sentiment


Asian stocks were mostly higher on Thursday following dovish comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve that helped send Wall Street shares to record highs overnight.

The Federal Reserve indicated that interest rates would stay low for some time at the conclusion of its two-day policy review, which sent the to a record finish. The central bank said it would cut monthly asset purchases from $45 billion to $35 billion next month, as expected, and alluded to a slightly faster pace of rate increases next year, while suggesting borrowing costs in the longer term would be lower than before.

"With that [the Fed] in mind, even Iraq missed headlines this time around and risk sentiment was largely improved. Adding to the positive sentiment were comments by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang who reinforced his country would maintain a minimum growth rate of 7.5 percent and ruled out a China hard landing," said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in a morning note.

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Concerns about Argentina continue to linger. The economy ministry said on Thursday that payment to holdout bond investors due on June 30 is now "impossible," raising the risk of the country entering a technical default.

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Nikkei gains 1.6%

Japanese shares climbed above 15,300 points to finish at its highest level in over four months, extending gains into a third session. Sentiment rose after Bank of Japan board member Yoshihisa Morimoto said on Thursday that exports will likely rebound, one day after the release of May's dismal trade report.

Meanwhile, results from the monthly Reuters Tankan survey showed confidence among manufacturers held steady in June from the prior month.

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Sony rallied nearly 4 percent after its CEO said the firm is not thinking of splitting off or listing its entertainment business. Other electronic names also gained with Sharp over 3 percent higher.

ASX up 1.6%

Australia's benchmark index snapped its two-day losing streak, rebounding from Wednesday's three-week closing low. The index posted its biggest daily percentage gain since December.

Miners rose as iron ore prices rebounded slightly to $90.30 a ton. Fortescue Metals jumped 5 percent while BHP Billiton added over 3 percent. Rio Tinto climbed 2.3 percent after reportedly offering customers a discount of up to 13 percent on iron ore.

Electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi increased 1.3 percent after saying total sales for the 2014 fiscal year would increase over 5 percent.

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China shares down

Mainland shares shed 1.5 percent for a second straight session despite data showing that profit growth at state firms rose in the first five months of the year and Premier Li Keqiang's optimistic comments on economic growth.

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Banks were some of the biggest losers on the Shanghai Composite index. Agricultural Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China eased 1.2 and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Hong Kong's benchmark index traded near the flatline after three straight days of losses.

Kospi inches up 0.1%

South Korean shares enjoyed a modest rebound after ending at a more than one-month low on Wednesday while the rose against the greenback, snapping a five-day losing streak.

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Among blue-chips, Samsung Electronics fell 2.6 percent while Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors eased more than 1 percent each.

Sensex slips 0.2%

Indian shares extended losses after closing down more than 1 percent on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the rose to its highest level in over a week at 60 per dollar.