Asia Markets

Stocks in Asia rise amid improved investor sentiment; oil extends gains

Key Points
  • Asian markets recorded gains, tracking the move higher stateside.
  • Investor sentiment was buoyed by strong U.S. earnings and positive signals on the trade front.
  • Oil prices extended gains after rising almost 3 percent higher overnight.

Markets in Asia closed higher on Thursday amid improved investor sentiment after U.S. stocks notched gains in the last session. Oil prices also extended gains after settling close to 3 percent higher in the last session.

The added 0.15 percent, or 32.98 points, to close at 22,191.18, with the materials sector contributing to gains. The index pared back some gains in the afternoon after touching a 7-week high earlier. Meanwhile, the Topix subindexes for steel and non-ferrous metals were among the best-performing sectors, rising 2.44 percent and 2.91 percent, respectively.

In Seoul, the Kospi firmed after tepid early trade to finish 0.25 percent higher at 2,486.10 amid gains in steelmakers and other manufacturing names. Technology stocks were mixed, with Samsung Electronics, an index heavyweight, up 2.76 percent.

Greater China markets advanced: Hong Kong's rose 1.21 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN, with the energy sector jumping 3.73 percent ahead of the market close as large cap oil producers gained on the back of a surge in oil prices. Materials stocks jumped 4.26 percent before the market close.

Mainland markets also climbed, with the adding 0.85 percent to close at 3,117.55 and the Shenzhen composite rising 0.6 percent to 1,814.64.

Over in Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 edged higher by 0.33 percent to end at 5,881. Materials stocks rose after overnight gains in the metals markets on Russia sanction worries, with mining major Rio Tinto jumping 3.12 percent.

The move higher in Asia followed the stronger lead from Wall Street, where robust earnings continued to buoy markets. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite notched slim gains on Wednesday, although the Dow Jones industrial average slipped, weighed down by a decline in IBM shares.

Some 79 percent of S&P 500 companies that had reported as of Wednesday morning had topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Investors also took a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in their stride after the two leaders pledged to begin trade talks.

"The [Japanese] market welcomed the atmosphere President Trump and Prime Minister Abe made in the joint press conference this morning," said Masayuki Kubota, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities, adding that Japanese exporters were "sure to benefit" from any free trade agreements between the countries.

Oil prices extended gains after rising to their strongest levels since late 2014 in the last session on data that showed a drop in U.S. crude inventories. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 0.39 percent to trade at $68.74 per barrel and Brent crude futures advanced 0.49 percent to $73.84.

The gains also came after a Reuters report, citing sources, said Saudi Arabia would be pleased with oil prices at a range between $80 and $100 per barrel.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, firmed slightly to trade at 89.686. Against the yen, the dollar extended overnight gains to trade at 107.40 at 2:41 p.m. HK/SIN.

Meanwhile, the was on the back foot after slipping in the last session on the back of March U.K. inflation coming in at a one-year low. The currency last traded at $1.4198 after touching a post-Brexit high earlier this week.

While cooling inflation pressure in March "will not be enough to dissuade the Bank of England from raising rates at the May meeting," a continued fall will "question the necessity for further rate increases in November," Elias Haddad, senior currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said in a note.

Among individual movers, miner BHP closed up 2.83 percent after announcing an 8 percent increase in third-quarter iron ore production, although it also slightly cut fiscal year 2018 guidance for iron ore.

Elsewhere, shares of Korean Air Line fell 2.91 percent amid Reuters headlines that police had raided the company's offices as part of an investigation into Chairman Cho Yang-ho's daughter.

Meanwhile, telecommunications equipment maker ZTE said it would postpone reporting first-quarter earnings, originally due on Thursday, pending a review on the effect a U.S. ban would have on the company, in a filing to the Hong Kong exchange.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.