Asia Markets

Hong Kong surges nearly 3% as Asia Pacific stocks rise amid coronavirus vaccine hopes

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia Pacific rose on Thursday, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumping nearly 3% on the day.
  • Investors watched for reaction to a recent study of a coronavirus candidate being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech that showed the drug created neutralizing antibodies. The results, which were posted online, have yet to be reviewed by a medical journal.
  • Australia's trade surplus for May came in at 8.025 billion Australian dollars, according to a Thursday data release from the country's bureau of statistics. That was below expectations of a trade surplus of 9 billion Australian dollars in a Reuters poll.

Stocks in Asia Pacific rose on Thursday, following positive news overnight about the development of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong led gains among the region's major markets, rising 2.85% to close at 25,124.19 following a Wednesday holiday. Shares of Chinese internet giant Tencent soared 3.99% while Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing skyrocketed 6.06%. 

Tensions in the city were closely watched after China's controversial national security law went into effect and Hong Kong police announced their first arrests under the measure. Police said in a tweet that they arrested about 370 people Wednesday, of which 10 were for alleged national security law breaches.

Mainland Chinese stocks also saw robust gains on the day, with the Shanghai composite rising 2.13% to around 3,090.57 and the Shenzhen component adding 1.292% to about 12,269.49.

South Korea's Kospi rose 1.36% to close at 2,135.37. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.11% to close at 22,145.96 while the Topix index advanced 0.27% to finish its trading day at 1,542.76.

Meanwhile, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.66% to close at 6,032.70. Trade surplus for May came in at 8.025 billion Australian dollars ($5.55 billion) on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the country's bureau of statistics. That was below expectations of a trade surplus of 9 billion Australian dollars in a Reuters poll.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index gained 1.94%.

"I think it's very interesting that even with the events of yesterday, of course, the Hang Seng market is the relative outperformer today," Ben Powell, chief investment strategist for Asia Pacific at BlackRock Investment Institute, told CNBC's "Street Signs" Thursday morning Singapore time.

Powell said the market moves were testament to the global "policy revolution," referring to drastic measures adopted by authorities around the world to keep financial markets afloat as the pandemic hits global economies.

"Even with the complexities of domestic politics, geopolitics, the virus itself which is still with us ... this policy revolution is helping financial markets to have healed ... back in March and now to continue to perform rather well," Powell said. "Having a moderately pro-risk stance, we think, continues to be right … both globally and here in the region."

Investors watched for reaction to a recent study of a coronavirus candidate being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech that showed the drug created neutralizing antibodies. The results, which were posted online, have yet to be reviewed by a medical journal.

"We are cautious," Joseph Capurso, head of international economics at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a note. "We have received positive news about potential vaccines in the past, but all are yet to see widespread production and distribution."

A top World Health Organization official warned Wednesday that certain countries may need to reimplement lockdowns. In the U.S., more than 12 states have paused or rolled back their reopenings following a recent spike in cases. Globally, more than 10 million people have been infected by the coronavirus and at least 511,000 lives have been taken, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against basket of its peers, was at 96.952 following an earlier high of 97.19.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.41 per dollar following its strengthening yesterday from around the 108 mark against the greenback. The Australian dollar was at $0-.6931 after bouncing from levels below $0.69 yesterday.

Oil prices rose in the afternoon of Asian trading hours on Thursday, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 1.4% to $42.62 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were 1.41% higher at $40.38 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.