Asia Markets

Asian shares get a fillip from ECB stimulus hopes

A businessman passes by a share prices board in Tokyo, Japan.
Yoshikazu Tsuno | AFP | Getty Images

Asian share markets rallied on Friday, encouraged by sharp offshore gains following hints of new stimulus from the European Central Bank (ECB).

ECB President Mario Draghi signaled on Thursday that the central bank is prepared to undertake another large stimulus package to tackle the lackluster growth seen in the euro zone.

"It was not a wait-and-see, but it was a work-and-assess. We are ready to act if needed, we are open to a whole menu of monetary policy instruments," Draghi said at the ECB's governing council meeting.

Following the news, the pan-European STOXX 600 powered up 2 percent, with all sectors closing in positive territory. Across the pond, Wall Street surged nearly 2 percent overnight, with the posting its best day since September 8.

"All I see this morning is the word 'euphoria' as Mario Draghi and his elves at the ECB practically confirmed there will be an early Christmas present in order for the European economy on December 3. Draghi's Christmas present is a global present," IG's market strategist Evan Lucas wrote in a note released early Friday.

"Expectations are now for Draghi to announce a 'prolonged period' (possibly even undefined) of the asset purchase program, likely to be well into 2017," he added.

Nikkei surges 2.1%

Japan's Nikkei 225 index zoomed up to 18,825 points — its highest level since August 31.

Snack food maker Calbee was the flavor of the day, up nearly 10 percent, after the Nikkei business daily tipped a 10 percent rise for the company's April-September operating profit from a year earlier.

Financials also attracted hefty buy orders; Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group advanced more than 2 percent each, while Nomura Holdings soared 3.7 percent.

Shares of Central Japan Railway, which announced upgrades to its bullet trains worth 100 billion yen, rose 3.5 percent. The announcement buoyed appetite for rail car and parts makers, with Nippon Sharyo and NTN Corp climbing 4.4 and 2.7 percent respectively following the news.

As the yen weakened to trade near one-month lows of 120.61 against the U.S. dollar, carmakers Toyota Motor, Nissan and Suzuki Motor jumped over 2 percent each, while Honda jumped 4 percent.

Bucking the strength, Daiichi Jitsugyo plunged 7.9 percent after the company lowered its full-year operating guidance.

Japan needs more easing: Citi strategist

China stocks higher

Share markets in China joined the rally, with the key Shanghai Composite index widening gains to close up 1.3 percent in late-day trading.

The CSI300 Index of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose by a similar margin. Small-caps continued to outperform, with Shenzhen's Nasdaq-style ChiNext board up 3.5 percent.

In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng index leaped 1.4 percent.

Property counters are in focus after latest data indicated a recovery in the all-important housing market. China's average new home prices rose 0.3 percent on-month in September, according to Reuters calculations from official data, chalking its fifth straight month of gains.

On a year-on-year basis, home prices fell 0.9 percent in September, versus a 2.3 percent slide in August.

Shanghai-listed Poly Real Estate bounced up 5.8 percent, while Shanghai Shimao and Gemdale rallied 3.3 and 2 percent respectively. Real estate giant China Vanke advanced 3 and 2.9 percent in Hong Kong and Shanghai respectively.

Shanghai-listed shares of Air China and China Southern Airline tumbled in both Shanghai and Hong Kong after dismissing a report by the Shanghai Securities News of a possible merger between the two carriers.

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Kospi gains 0.9%

South Korea's Kospi index headed south on the back of a double booster.

Apart from an upbeat offshore lead, advance estimates released before the market open showed the economy expanded 1.2 percent in the third quarter, topping market expectations for a 1 percent rise. The figures also marked South Korea's fastest growth in more than five years.

On a year-on-year basis, Asia's fourth-largest economy grew 2.6 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, compared with a median forecast of 2.5 percent gain.

Corporate earnings continue to hog the spotlight; SK Innovation rallied 8.8 percent, thanks to a whooping 644 percent on-year jump in third-quarter operating profit.

Kia Motors gave up early gains to close down 1.8 percent after announcing a 16.3 percent on-year drop in third-quarter net profit. LG Display slumped 6.2 percent, hurt by a 30 percent slide in third-quarter profit.

ASX leaps 1.7%

Australia's benchmark index settled at a two-month peak, chalking up its biggest one-day percentage gain since October 5.

Westpac and Commonwealth Bank of Australia closed up 1.7 and 1.3 percent respectively. National Australia Bank powered up 1.9 percent after announcing that it is raising its variable mortgage rate by 17 basis points from November 12. Australia and New Zealand Banking which announced near midday that it is following suit, finished 1.1 percent higher.

Santos added 2.2 percent to Thursday's 16 percent surge, which was sparked by the oil and gas producer's decision to reject a takeover proposal from U.S.-based fund manager Scepter. Market bellwether BHP Billiton moved up 2 percent.

Beach Energy and Drillsearch Energy shares rose following a merger agreement. The former pared early losses to rebound 3 percent, while the latter piled on 26 percent.

New Zealand shares notched up 0.8 percent to record highs.

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KLCI adds 0.34%

Malaysia's FTSE Bursa KLCI closed 0.34 percent higher after the country's government announced its 2016 budget, highlighting how it plans to narrow its deficit.

On the domestic data front, consumer prices rose 2.6 percent from a year earlier in September, government statistics showed, missing market expectations for a 3.0 percent gain and a 3.1 percent reading in August.

Meanwhile, markets in Thailand are closed for the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day.