Asian markets track Wall St higher as Hong Kong extends rally

Asian markets track Wall St higher as Hong Kong extends rally

Shares in Shanghai are enjoying a much-needed surge after suffering a long-running sell-off fuelled by worries over the economy
Shares in Shanghai are enjoying a much-needed surge after suffering a long-running sell-off fuelled by worries over the economy. Photo: Hector RETAMAL / AFP
Source: AFP

Hong Kong and Shanghai stocks extended their rally Wednesday on hopes for more Chinese measures in support of battered markets, while traders elsewhere in Asia tracked Wall Street advances fuelled by strong earnings.

Fresh comments from Federal Reserve officials that poured cold water on hopes for an early interest rate cut appeared to have little impact with investors resigned to the prospect of monetary policy remaining tight well into 2024.

A series of announcements out of Beijing has lit a fire under equities in Hong Kong and Shanghai this week, with Bloomberg reporting that companies have spent more than $4 billion on buybacks after officials called on them to play their part.

The surge on Tuesday came after a unit that controls government stakes in big financial institutions said it would ramp up investments in funds, while regulators said it would urge more action from long-term funds.

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The developments follow a long-running rout in Shanghai and Hong Kong -- fuelled largely by worries over China's economy -- that has slashed trillions off valuations.

The crisis is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for the leadership, with Xi Jinping reported to be taking a personal interest.

"Sentiment improved after (Tuesday's) ripping rally in Chinese and Hong Kong stocks," said Kyle Rodda of Capital.Com.

"For now, the measures have had their desired effect," he added, pointing out that the markets were reaching levels that could spell the end of their downward spiral.

Shanghai and Hong Kong each jumped more than one percent Wednesday -- a day after piling on more than three percent and four percent respectively.

But observers warned the measures will not be enough on their own to revive confidence among weary investors, adding that much more needs to be done to kickstart the world's number two economy and address the property sector debt crisis.

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And Saxo's Redmond Wong said in a note: "In our opinion, the boost from market intervention tends to fade within days."

There were also gains Wednesday in Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Wellington, Manila and Jakarta, though Tokyo edged down.

The advances came after Wall Street's three main indexes chalked up small gains thanks to more healthy corporate results, including from Spotify and data analytics firm Palantir, which soared more than 30 percent on optimism over its artificial intelligence offerings.

That helped investors look past comments from two top Fed officials pushing back against early rate cuts.

Cleveland Fed president Loretta Mester said it would be a "mistake" to move too soon, even as inflation continues to come down nearer the bank's two percent target.

She said decision-makers would be happier to "begin moving rates down" later this year if the economy progressed as expected.

And Minneapolis counterpart Neel Kashkari also suggested more progress was needed.

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While the mood has improved on trading floors, investors remain on edge over a range of issues that could blow up, including wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, China-US tensions, China's property crisis and the global economy.

Commonwealth Financial Network's Brad McMillan warned: "While conditions are good, volatility is very possible.

"We saw some turbulence in January, and we aren't out of the woods with inflation yet. So, while the trends remain positive, risks could increase over the next couple of months."

However, he added: "This is something to watch out for but not worry about too much, given the strong economic fundamentals."

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 36,122.57 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.3 percent at 16,342.71

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.2 percent at 2,822.70

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 147.77 yen from 147.91 yen on Tuesday

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Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0764 from $1.0758

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2612 from $1.2600

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.34 pence from 85.36 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.3 percent at $73.55 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.3 percent at $78.80 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 38,521.36 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.9 percent at 7,681.01 (close)

Source: AFP

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