Asian shares rise on Fed rate hopes despite China worries

Broad restrictions will keep weighing on risk sentiment and macroeconomic fundamentals, putting pressure on the outlook for cyclical stocks and commodities," said Anderson Alves at ActivTrades.
Representative image
Representative image

WASHINGTON: Asian shares gained on Thursday, although optimism about the Federal Reserve holding back on aggressive interest rate raises was countered by some uncertainty about coronavirus restrictions in China. Trading was relatively muted in Asia ahead of US markets being closed for Thanksgiving. Benchmarks rose in early trading in Japan, Australia and South Korea, but fell in Shanghai. Oil prices fell. "A headwind for Asian markets is the COVID situation in China, where investors seem to be avoiding local assets and commodities as the country is seeing near-record numbers of COVID cases. Broad restrictions will keep weighing on risk sentiment and macroeconomic fundamentals, putting pressure on the outlook for cyclical stocks and commodities," said Anderson Alves at ActivTrades.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 1.3 per cent in morning trading to 28,470.82, following a national holiday Wednesday. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 per cent to 7,253.00. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.5 per cent to 2,430.82. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.5 per cent to 17,616.00, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.1 per cent to 3,093.51. Stocks closed broadly higher on Wall Street after the minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent policy meeting showed central bank officials agreed that smaller rate hikes would likely be appropriate "soon." That suggests policymakers are seeing signs that inflation may be cooling as the economy slows with more costly borrowing. The S&P 500 rose 0.6 per cent to 4,027.26, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3 per cent to 34,194.06. The Nasdaq composite closed 1 per cent higher to 11,285.32.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies edged higher, adding 0.2 per cent to close at 1,863.52.

Long-term Treasury yields fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, slipped to 3.69 per cent from 3.76 per cent.

At their November 1-2 meeting, Fed officials expressed uncertainty about how long it might take for their rate hikes to slow the economy enough to tame inflation. At a news conference afterward, Chair Jerome Powell stressed the Fed wasn't even close to declaring victory in its fight to curb high inflation. Other Fed officials in the weeks since the meeting have signaled that additional hikes are still necessary.

The central bank's benchmark rate currently stands at 3.75 per cent to 4 per cent, up from close to zero in March. It has warned that it may have to ultimately raise rates to previously unanticipated levels to cool the hottest inflation in decades.

Wall Street has been closely watching the latest economic and inflation data for any signs that might allow the Fed to ease up on future rate increases. Investors are worried that the Fed could slam the brakes too hard on economic growth and bring on a recession.

Consumer spending and the employment market have so far remained strong points in the economy. That has helped as a bulwark against a recession, but also means the Fed may have to remain aggressive.

Technology stocks and some big retailers helped drive a big share of the gains in the benchmark S&P 500 index Wednesday. Chipmaker Nvidia rose 3 per cent and Target rose 3.5 per cent.

Homebuilders rose broadly following a government report showing that sales of new US homes rose more than expected in October. Lennar gained 1.6 per cent and D.R. Horton rose 2.2 per cent.

Crude oil prices fell 3.7per cent, which weighed down energy stocks. Hess fell 2.2 per cent.

In energy trading, benchmark US crude lost 11 cents to USD 77.83 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 16 cents to USD 85.25 a barrel. In currency trading, the US dollar fell to 138.85 Japanese yen from 139.57 yen. The euro cost USD 1.0425, up from USD 1.0399.

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