ASIAN SHARES RISE AIDED BY COMMODITY AND CURRENCY GAINS

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CANBERA (Alliance News) – Most Asian shares rose on Friday, although Japanese shares succumbed to selling pressure amid continued strength in the yen. Big gains in commodity prices amid dollar weakness, positive home price data out of China and a surge in regional currencies on expectations that the US Federal Reserve would not raise interest rates as quickly as expected helped underpin risk appetite.

China’s Shanghai Composite index climbed 50.32 points or 1.73% to 2,955.15 as the dollar’s weakness helped ease worries surrounding capital outflows from the country. Sentiment was also buoyed by positive home price data.

House prices in majority of the Chinese cities increased in February, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. On a monthly basis, house prices rose in 47 cities out of 70 surveyed by the government.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 167.82 points or 0.82% to 20,671.63, taking the weekly gain to 3.8%.

Japanese shares fell for a fourth consecutive session as the yen continued to strengthen against the dollar, raising concerns over the likely impact on profits of major exporters. The benchmark Nikkei average fell 211.57 points or 1.25% to a near one-week low of 16,724.81 while the broader Topix index shed 1.02% to finish at 1,345.05.

The yen briefly rose to the upper 110 yen range, spurring speculation that the Bank of Japan is checking exchange rates with banks, a move seen by traders as a prelude to market intervention.

Minutes of the Bank of Japan’s Jan. 28-29 policy meeting released today revealed that policymakers debated the option of once again expanding the monetary base and asset-purchase program before eventually implementing the policy of negative interest rates.

Automakers Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Mazda Motor and Fuji Heavy Industries fell 1-3%. Toshiba rallied 4.3% after announcing a USD5.9 billion asset sale. Oil firm Inpex rose 1.3% and electronics maker Panasonic advanced 2.4%.

Australian shares pared early gains as the Aussie dollar extended its rally, raising concerns it would hurt the growing services and tourism sectors. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 14.90 points or 0.29% to 5,183.10 and the broader All Ordinaries index closed 12.90 points or 0.25% higher at 5,239.30.

BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group jumped 4-5% after Dalian iron ore prices climbed almost 6%. Origin Energy, Santos and Woodside Petroleum all rose about 2% after oil prices extended recent rally to break above USD40 a barrel on Thursday for the first time this year.

Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB closed up between 0.6% and 1%. Premier Investments soared over 4% after posting a record half-year profit. Nine Entertainment Co. advanced 2.6% on reports it has picked up a 9.9% stake in regional broadcaster Southern Cross Media. The latter’s stock price fell 4.2%.

Seoul shares rose for a third day and the local currency rose about one percent to hit its highest level against the dollar this year as investors absorbed the Fed’s policy statement. The benchmark Kospi average gained 4.13 points or 0.21% to finish at 1,992.12.

Investors largely shrugged off news of North Korea firing two medium-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. In economic releases, South Korea’s producer price index slid 3.4% year-over-year in February, slightly faster than the 3.3% drop in the previous month, preliminary figures showed.

New Zealand’s S&P/NZX-50 index climbed 50.05 points or 0.76% to 6,623.50, another record high on heavy trading volume. Contact Energy, A2 Milk, Kiwi Property Group and Mighty River Power rallied 2-4%.

India’s Sensex was moving up 0.3% after the rupee surged to over two-month high of 66.55 against the dollar. Indonesia’s Jakarta Composite index was declining 0.4%. The country’s central bank cut its interest rates for a third time this year and said there was more room for easing amid receding inflationary pressures and less global uncertainty.

Malaysia’s KLSE Composite was rising half a percent and Singapore’s Straits Times index was gaining 0.6% while the Taiwan Weighted advanced 0.9%.

On Wall Street, the major averages rose between 0.2% and 0.9% overnight as oil futures touched new highs for 2016 and FedEx posted better than expected quarterly results.

Copyright RTT News/dpa-AFX

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