Asia Markets

South Korea stocks surge more than 7% as China keeps loan prime rate unchanged

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia Pacific rose on Friday.
  • China's loan prime rates (LPR) on Friday were kept unchanged from their February levels, with both the 1-year and 5-year LPR left steady at 4.05% and 4.75%, respectively.
  • Markets in Japan were closed on Friday for a holiday.

Stocks in Asia Pacific rose on Friday as China kept its loan prime rates unchanged.

South Korean stocks, which saw heavy losses on Thursday, jumped by the close as the Kospi advanced 7.44% to 1,566.15 while the Kosdaq index surged 9.2% to 467.75.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index also jumped 3.97%, as of its final hour of trading.

Mainland Chinese stocks also edged higher on the day, with the Shanghai composite 0.47% higher while the Shenzhen composite added 0.166%.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7% to close at 4,816.60, with the heavily weighted financial subindex up 3.56%.

In Southeast Asia, the Straits Times Index in Singapore gained 1.3% in afternoon trade.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index gained 4.32%.

Markets in Japan were closed on Friday for a holiday.

China's loan prime rates (LPR) on Friday were kept unchanged from their February levels, with both the 1-year and 5-year LPR left steady at 4.05% and 4.75%, respectively.

Following the rates release, the onshore Chinese yuan strengthened against the greenback at 7.0964 per dollar. The offshore yuan also saw gains at 7.1292 per dollar.

Meanwhile, developments on the ongoing global coronavirus outbreak continued to be watched, with markets seeing wild moves in recent days as investors continue to weigh the disease's potential economic impact.

"Uncertainty and volatility are becoming the norm in financial markets amid the coronavirus crisis," Kim Mundy, a currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a note. "Central banks are continuing to throw everything they have at limiting the disruption from the coronavirus pandemic."

Central banks from across the globe, ranging from Australia's Reserve Bank of Australia to the U.S. Federal Reserve, have cut interest rates and announced plans to buy bonds in recent days as authorities worldwide race to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

"I think what is worrying a lot of people and i think ... what is confusing a lot of people is that generally when people come out of the stock market, they then go into bonds," David Kuo, co-founder at The Smart Investor, told CNBC's "Capital Connection" on Friday. The buying of bonds then depresses yields, he said.

"But it's not happening this time because people are not buying bonds either, so it's really up to the central banks now to ... create this money in order to buy the bonds, in order to try and depress ... that bond yield," Kuo said.

Bond yields are currently going up at the moment as governments are saying they will "do whatever it takes," he said. "They're creating the money now to solve the initial problem, but i think most investors know that this will have to be paid for at some later stage."

On Friday, Australia's banks announced that loan repayments for small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak would be deferred for six months.

In a release announcing the small business relief package, Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh said the move will apply to more than 100 billion Australian dollars ($58.8 billion)  worth of existing small business loans and could put as much as 8 billion Australian dollars ($4.7 billion) "back into the pockets of small businesses."

Oil prices continue to rise

Oil prices rose in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures adding 4% to $29.61 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also jumped 6.3% to $26.81 per barrel.

The moves in oil prices come on the back of a strong Thursday rebound, with U.S. crude seeing its best day on record.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 101.741 after it touched an earlier high of 102.922.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.87 per dollar after seeing levels below 108 earlier this week. The Australian dollar was at $0.5918 after seeing an earlier low of $0.5662.