Asia Markets

Japan jumps 2% as hopes rise for more easing from the Fed

Key Points
  • Asia Pacific stocks saw gains on the day.
  • Overnight stateside, the major indexes saw their first gains in three sessions.
  • New York Federal Reserve President John Williams said Thursday the central bank needed to "act quickly" when the economy was slowing and rates were low.

Stocks in major Asia Pacific markets made strong gains on Friday, as comments from a U.S. Federal Reserve official led to rising expectations the central bank could ease monetary policy more than expected.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan added 2% to close at 21,466.99, as shares of semiconductor equipment manufacturer Tokyo Electron surged 3.48%. The Topix index also rose 1.94% to finish its trading day at 1,563.96.

In mainland China, shares gained on the day. The Shanghai composite rose 0.79% to about 2,924.20, while the Shenzhen composite added 0.751% to 1,560.27. The Shenzhen component also gained 0.81% to 9,228.55.

Over in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index advanced 1.03%, as of its final hour of trading.

In South Korea, the Kospi closed 1.35% higher at 2,094.36, as shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics advanced 1.52%.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 also rose 0.77% to close at 6,700.30. Shares of National Australia Bank jumped 2.19% following its announcement that it had hired Ross McEwan — credited with turning the Royal Bank of Scotland around — as its new CEO. McEwan's appointment comes as the bank fights to win back customer trust following damaging findings at the Royal Commission inquiry into the country's financial sector.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index advanced 0.93%.

Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch InBev said it was selling its Australian operations to Japan's Asahi, adding that it was still interested in "a potential offering of a minority stake of" Budweiser Brewing Company APAC. That Budweiser listing in Hong Kong was cancelled last week, with the company citing "several factors, including the prevailing market conditions" for the move.

Overnight stateside, the major indexes saw their first gains in three sessions. The S&P 500 closed 0.4% higher at 2,995.11, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.3% to 8,207.24. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the trading day stateside higher by 3.12 points at 27,222.97.

New York Federal Reserve President John Williams said Thursday the central bank needed to "act quickly" when the economy was slowing and rates were low. "It's better to take preventative measures than to wait for disaster to unfold, " he said in a speech.

Traders increased their bets on Thursday that the Fed could cut even deeper later this month.

For its part, the New York Federal Reserve clarified Williams' comments by saying they were not indicative of the Fed's future moves.

"I would take the comments and the clarification as consistent with the relatively dovish view and the Fed heading towards ... a rate cut," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital Investors, told CNBC. He added that he was leaning toward a 25 basis point cut.

Oil and currencies

Tensions in the Middle East heated up further on Thursday, with U.S. President Donald Trump saying an American Navy ship had destroyed an Iranian done in a "defensive action." The announcement came hours after Iranian forces seized a foreign tanker it accused of smuggling oil.

Oil prices, however, saw sharp declines on Thursday, amid expectations of rising crude output in the Gulf of Mexico following last week's hurricane in the region.

In the afternoon of Asian trading hours on Friday, oil prices rose. The international benchmark Brent crude futures contract jumped 1.42% to $62.81 per barrel, while U.S. crude futures advanced 1.07% to $55.89 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.906 after dropping from levels above 97.2 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.66 against the dollar after seeing an earlier high of 107.20, while the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7061 after rising from levels below $0.704 yesterday.

— Reuters and CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.