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Asian stocks extend rally; Hang Seng at 1-week high

Asian stocks extend rally; Hang Seng at 1-week high

Asian equities put up an upbeat performance on the final trading day of the week, following an inspiring US lead overnight.

Wall Street rallied on Thursday, with the blue-chip Dow climbing more than 400 points for the first time in three years, as investors applauded the Federal Reserve’s pledge that it would be patient in increasing interest rates. Positive data showing jobless claims fell by 6,000 to 289,000 last week – the lowest since early November – also encouraged sentiment.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 2.4 percent, while the S&P 500 surged 2.4 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq added 2.2 percent.

Oil back in focus

Meanwhile, global crude prices fell again on Thursday, a day after a short-covering rally, as traders placed new bets that the market would resume a six-month rout on worries about a supply glut.

Brent’s front-month contract closed down USD 1.91 at USD 59.27 a barrel, after hitting a session low at USD 59.17. US crude’s front-month contract settled down USD 2.36 at USD 54.11, after having fallen to USD 54.05 earlier.

Nikkei jumps 1.9%

Wall Street’s upbeat performance overnight allowed Japanese shares to attain a one-week high on Friday, after the Nikkei 225 enjoyed its best day in six-and-a-half weeks in the previous session, as dollar-yen continued its march up toward the 119 handle.

Meanwhile, traders await the Bank of Japan’s last policy decision for the year. The central bank is widely expected to keep monetary settings unchanged and offer a slightly brighter view of the economy on tentative signs of recovery from recession, Reuters quoted sources as saying.

“USD/JPY will be the pair to watch today, given the Bank of Japan (BoJ) meeting,” wrote IG market strategist Stan Shamu in a note. “There have also been reports doing the rounds that freshly re-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning a significant stimulus package to the tune of around USD 30 billion, which should help the Nikkei to extend gains today.”

Sony underperformed the bourse, losing 2.6 percent early Friday, on reports that North Korea was behind a cyber attack on Sony Pictures which has resulted in the studio pulling all plans to release its comedy “The Interview.”

Mainland bourses up

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index opened up 0.5 percent on Friday while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index hit a one-week high of 23,185 points at the open.

Gaming stocks remain in focus ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the city this weekend. Melco Crown and Sands China gained 2.9 and 3.1 percent.

Carmaker BYD Co rebounded 12.4 percent, after tanking more than 45 percent in the previous session amid concerns that it’s losing market share to foreign rivals in China’s auto market.

Meanwhile, BAIC Motor, partly-owned by Germany’s Daimler, opened flat at HK dollar 8.90 in its trading debut.

ASX rallies 2.2%

Australia’s benchmark S&P ASX 200 extended a Fed-fueled rally from the previous session to touch a one-and-a-half-week high early Friday, as the commodity sector dismissed pressure from falling metals and oil prices.

Oil and gas producers opened up, with Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy bolstering 2.7 and 1.9 percent each. Santos, which was in focus after announcing that it had secured a 3-year USD 816.60 million bank loan from ANZ Banking, notched up 2.4 percent.

Iron ore miners were broadly higher; BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals climbed over 3 percent, respectively, while BC Iron reversed opening gains to tank 2 percent after announcing changes to its Iron Valley deal with Mineral Resources.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar continued to trade below 82 US cents, near multi-year lows.

Kospi up 1.6%

South Korean shares traded higher in the morning session, with blue-chips leading the gains. Samsung Electronics charged 4 percent while Hyundai Motor doubled gains to 2.4 percent.

The country’s largest utility Kepco rose 5.2 percent despite news that the South Korean government is considering to cut electricity rates following the fall in energy prices.

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