HONG KONG – Most Asian stocks jumped Thursday as oil prices bounced back and weak U.S. economic data fueled investor hopes that the Fed would slow the pace of rate hikes this year. Japanese shares fell as the yen rose against the dollar.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.8 per cent to 17,059.31 after the yen strengthened sharply against the dollar, hurting share prices of the country’s export manufacturers. South Korea’s Kospi added 1.4 per cent to 1,915.94 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 1.3 per cent to 19,245.56. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China climbed 0.9 per cent to 2,764.59. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 2.1 per cent to 4,980.40. Markets in Southeast Asia rose.
RATE RETHINK: Investors are dialing back expectations that the Fed will continue gradually raising interest rates after recent data showed the U.S. economy had a weak start to the year. On Wednesday, the private ISM survey found U.S. services companies grew in January at the slowest rate in nearly two years. Meanwhile, the dollar sank after New York Fed President William Dudley told financial news agency MNI that the U.S. central bank would have to take into account tight global financial conditions when considering further rate hikes.
QUOTABLE: “A lot of the pressure in Asia has been taken off by the fact that yen strengthened so much overnight,” which makes Chinese exports more competitive in Asia and reduces the need for Beijing to let China’s yuan fall further, said Andrew Sullivan, sales trader at Haitong Securities. “People are expecting the Fed to be on the back foot now” when it comes to rate hikes, he said. “There’s a lot out there that suggest the Fed that isn’t going to be as bullish as it might have been earlier.”
WALL STREET: U.S. stocks staged a late turnaround to finish higher thanks to surging oil prices and the weakening U.S. dollar. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.1 per cent to close at 16,336.66. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 0.5 per cent to 1,912.53 but the Nasdaq composite fell 0.3 per cent to 4,504.24.
ENERGY: Oil futures extended gains on the weaker greenback, which makes oil cheaper for international investors buying with other currencies. Benchmark U.S. crude added 29 cents, or 0.9 per cent, to $32.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $2.40, or 8 per cent, to close at $32.28 a barrel on Wednesday in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil prices, rose 39 cents to $35.42.
CURRENCIES: The dollar was steady after losing about 1.7 per cent overnight, edging up to 117.98 yen from 117.90 yen. The euro eased to $1.1083 from a three-month high of 1.1118 in the previous day’s trading.