CANBERA (Alliance News) – Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday following another firm lead overnight from Wall Street and on increased risk appetite after US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s comments on Tuesday eased investors’ anxiety about a near-term interest rate hike.
The Australian market is notably higher, with gains across the board, as investors continued to ride a wave of positive sentiment on dovish comments from Yellen on Tuesday.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 79.40 points or 1.58% to 5,089.70. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 76.90 points or 1.51% to 5,158.40.
Among the big miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are adding more than 3% each, while Fortescue Metals is gaining more than 2%.
Gold miner Newcrest Mining is rising almost 1%, while Evolution Mining is lower by almost 3% after gold prices settled lower overnight as safe-haven demand for gold diminished.
In the banking sector, Westpac Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Banking are higher in a range of more than 1% to almost 3%.
In the oil space, Oil Search is up almost 2%, Santos is higher by more than 1% and Woodside Petroleum is adding almost 1%.
Origin Energy has signed a 15-year contract with the Moree Solar Farm in New South Wales, which will generate enough energy to supply 24,000 households. Shares of the company are gaining more than 5%.
Energy utility owner Duet Group has launched a AUD200 million capital raising to finance the acquisition of the remaining 20% of the Dampier-Bunbury natural gas pipeline that it does not already own, from Alcoa. Trading in shares of Duet have been suspended.
Qantas Airways reported a 10.5% increase in overall passenger numbers for February, buoyed by an increase in international travelers. Shares of the company are rising more than 2%.
On the economic front, the Reserve Bank of Australia said that private sector credit in Australia was up 0.6% on month in February. That exceeded forecasts for 0.5%, which would have been unchanged.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar rose above the USD0.77 mark in the wake of dovish comments from Yellen. In early trades Thursday, the local unit was trading at USD0.7669, up from USD0.7642 on Wednesday and after rising to USD0.7710 overnight.
The Japanese market has pared its initial gains and is modestly higher. Meanwhile, a weaker yen is boosting exporters’ shares.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is up 15.14 points or 0.09% to 16,894.10, after rising to a high of 17,033.65 in early trades.
Among the major exporters, Sony is adding almost 1% and Canon is up 0.4%.
Shares of Sharp Corp. are lower by almost 4%. On Wednesday, Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group said it has agreed to buy a controlling stake in the struggling consumer electronics company for a reduced price of about USD3.5 billion.
Toshiba Corp. has agreed to sell an 80.1% stake in its home appliances business to China’s Midea Group for about 53.7 billion yen and will retain the remaining 19.9% stake in the unit. Toshiba’s shares are higher by more than 6%.
Automaker Toyota is declining 0.3%, while Honda is up more than 2%. In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is advancing more than 2%.
In the oil space, Inpex is adding more than 1%, while refiner JX Holdings is down 0.3%.
Among the other major gainers, Screen Holdings is rising more than 5% and Mineabea Co. is up more than 4%. On the flip side, Sapporo Holdings is losing more than 3%, while Mitsumi Electric and Nippon Suisan Kaisha are down 3% each.
In economic news, Japan will see February numbers for housing starts and construction orders today.
In the currency market, the US dollar traded in the mid 112 yen-level on Thursday, up from Wednesday’s close in the lower 112 yen-range in Tokyo.
Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, New Zealand, Indonesia and Taiwan are up with modest gains. Singapore is down more than 1%, while South Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia are marginally lower.
On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Wednesday, but well off their best levels, as traders continued to react positively to the remarks by Yellen. Positive sentiment was also generated by the release of a report from payroll processor ADP showing slightly stronger than expected US private sector job growth in the month of March.
The Dow climbed 83.55 points or 0.5% to 17,716.66, the Nasdaq advanced 22.67 points or 0.5% to 4,869.29 and the S&P 500 rose 8.94 points or 0.4% to 2,063.95.
The major European markets also showed strong moves to the upside on Wednesday. The French CAC 40 Index jumped by 1.8%, while the UK’s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index both spiked by 1.6%.
Crude oil futures were flat Wednesday, as US inventories rose roughly in line with estimates last week. Crude for May delivery ended up USD0.04 or 0.1% at USD38.32 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Copyright RTT News/dpa-AFX