Asian markets mostly up, Hong Kong boosted by Alibaba rally

Asian markets mostly up, Hong Kong boosted by Alibaba rally

Alibaba surged in Hong Kong and New York on reports of a huge stake purchase by co-founders Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai
Alibaba surged in Hong Kong and New York on reports of a huge stake purchase by co-founders Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai. Photo: JP Yim / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP
Source: AFP

Most Asian markets rose Wednesday, with Hong Kong leading the pack for a second day following reports Alibaba's co-founders had bought huge stakes in the firm, a day after it emerged China was planning a blockbuster boost for the country's stuttering equities.

The gains followed another record for the S&P 500 on Wall Street that came on the back of optimism over the US economic outlook and a positive run of earnings.

That has helped offset fading expectations the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates several times this year starting in March.

Hong Kong piled on more than two percent at one point Wednesday, building on the previous day's gains of more than two percent -- a much-needed advance after tanking around 10 percent from the start of the year to Monday.

The Hang Seng's rise was fuelled by a six percent surge in Alibaba on news that Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai had bought about $200 million worth of shares between them, which Bloomberg said was seen as a positive signal to investors in the ecommerce titan.

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Other Hong Kong-listed tech firms rallied, including Tencent, and Netease.

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Alibaba's New York-listed stock piled on nearly eight percent.

However, the firm is down more than 70 percent from its record high seen in 2020, when Beijing began a clampdown on China's tech sector, which saw the cancellation of a planned IPO by subsidiary Ant Group worth $34 billion -- a record at the time.

News of the purchases by Ma and Tsai came after Bloomberg reported that Premier Li Qiang had called for more "forceful" measures to support China's battered stocks, giving a shot in the arm to investor confidence.

Authorities were said to be looking at a raft of initiatives, and policymakers were seeking to mobilise nearly $280 billion, mainly from the offshore accounts of state-owned enterprises.

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There were also gains in Shanghai, Wellington, Taipei and Manila.

However, Tokyo -- which has rallied in January to three-decade highs thanks to rising hopes for the Japanese economy -- dipped after central bank boss Kazuo Ueda ramped up expectations it will soon move away from its ultra-loose monetary policy.

Bets are now on a more hawkish shift to the long-running easing measures in the first half of the year.

Sydney, Seoul and Jakarta also eased.

Investors are keeping a close eye on the US earnings season, which analysts said had so far been largely positive, spurring hope that the world's top economy will continue to grow healthily, even with interest rates still sitting at two-decade highs.

Wall Street remained optimistic despite bets on a March rate cut waning following warnings from Fed officials that they were determined to do what was needed to tame inflation, suggesting a more dovish turn was not yet in the offing.

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"The excitement is kind of gone at this point and everybody’s sobering up a little bit after the pivot party," said Emily Roland, at John Hancock Investment Management, referring to an end-of-year equity surge sparked by expectations for an early Fed reduction.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWn 0.7 percent at 36,268.15 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.4 percent at 15,563.15

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 2,774.78

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 148.14 yen from 148.32 yen on Tuesday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0854 from $1.0857

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2685 from $1.2692

Euro/pound: UP at 85.54 pence from 85.52 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.2 percent at $74.48 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.2 percent at $79.69 per barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 37,908.45 (close)

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,485.73 (close)

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Source: AFP

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