Asia Markets

Asian stocks advance following sharp US gains; yen firms

Key Points
  • Asian stocks advanced, taking cues from the rally on Wall Street.
  • Markets in the region, including China and South Korea, closed the week early for the Lunar New Year holiday.
  • Oil prices recorded gains of more than 1 percent during Asian trading hours.
  • The dollar was broadly softer against a basket of currencies, extending losses seen in the last session.

Asian stocks closed higher on Thursday, taking cues from the rally on Wall Street, while the dollar slipped.

The rose 1.47 percent, or 310.81 points, to close at 21,464.98. Most sectors were in positive territory despite the firmer yen, with technology and financials recording substantial gains. Sony rose 1.87 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group was higher by 1.82 percent by the end of the day.

The manufacturing sector also closed higher, with Fanuc Manufacturing and Komatsu climbing 2.1 percent and 3.95 percent, respectively.

The benchmark had come under pressure in the last session after the dollar fell to 15-month lows against the yen during Asian trading hours on Wednesday.

On the data front, Japan's December core machinery orders fell 11.9 percent, Reuters said — a larger decline than the 2.3 percent median fall projected.

Over in Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.16 percent to end at 5,909, with the energy, materials and gold sectors among the best-performing sectors. Major miners were higher on the day: Rio Tinto jumped 4.06 percent and BHP gained 3.56 percent by the end of the session.

Australian insurer Suncorp fell 2.4 percent by the end of the day after it reported that half-year net profit fell 15.8 percent to 452 million Australian dollars ($358 million), missing a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S forecast of A$486 million. It cited higher-than-expected natural hazard claims as a factor affecting its earnings.

Meanwhile, Origin Energy jumped 6.86 percent after the company announced underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization for the first half grew 51 percent to A$1.49 billion ($1.18 billion). It also raised full-year guidance to a range between A$1.78 billion ($1.41 billion) to A$1.85 billion ($1.47 billion), from a range of A$1.7 billion to A$1.8 billion.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's closed higher by 1.97 percent, or 599.83 points, at 31,115.43, with the finance, and commerce and industry sectors contributing the most to gains. Financials were firmly in positive territory, with China Construction Bank finishing the session up 4.69 percent and HSBC climbing 2.01 percent.

Markets in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam were closed on Thursday for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Wednesday marked the fourth day of gains for stock indexes in the U.S., with the three major indexes posting gains of more than 1 percent.

Stocks stateside had initially begun the session in negative territory following the release of highly anticipated U.S. inflation data, although they later reversed those losses. The consumer price index rose 0.5 percent last month, topping the 0.3 percent forecast in a Reuters poll.

Yields on U.S. government debt rose following the release of inflation data. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note jumped to 2.92 percent on Wednesday, its highest levels in four years.

Other economic data released overnight included U.S. retail sales for the month of January, which missed expectations.

In currencies, the dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of rivals, slipped to trade at 88.876 by 2:47 p.m. HK/SIN, compared to Wednesday's close of 89.006. The overnight decline in the greenback came despite expectations that price pressures would influence the Federal Reserve's interest rate hike path.

"For today, aggregated rate differentials in favor of the U.S. dollar may continued to be sidelined in the near term if investors persist in riding on the back of the positive risk appetite wagon," said OCBC Bank analyst Emmanuel Ng in a note.

Against the yen, the dollar traded at 106.40 after slipping as low as 106.29 earlier in the session.

Of note, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso on Thursday said he had no plans at the moment to respond to moves in the currency, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar dipped as low as $0.7905 on the release of January jobs data that met forecasts, but later firmed to trade at $0.7946. That was above levels around the $0.78 handle seen at the beginning of the week.

On the commodities front, oil prices extended gains after rallying in the last session on the weaker greenback and a less-than-expected rise in U.S. crude inventories.

U.S. crude futures rose 1.5 percent to trade at $61.51 per barrel after settling more than 2 percent higher overnight. Brent crude futures rose 1.09 percent to trade at $65.06.