Asia markets trade up; Nikkei leads – CNBC

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Most Asia markets traded higher Thursday morning, after U.S. stocks rose overnight, helped by gains in financial stocks.

Australia’s ASX 200 was up 0.76 percent, boosted by a 0.99 percent advance in the heavily-weighted financials sub-index. The country’s so-called Big Four banks – ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac and NAB – traded up between 1.14 and 1.72 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was up 2.45 percent, extending gains on the back of the yen’s recent, relative weakness against the dollar. South Korea’s Kospi returned to trade after being closed on Wednesday, rising 1.13 percent in morning trade. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 0.87 percent.

Chinese markets stumbled, with the Shanghai composite edging up 0.1 percent and the Shenzhen composite ekeing out a 0.1 percent gain.

Rodrigo Catril, a currency strategist at the National Australia Bank, said in a morning note that risky assets have continued to benefit from an improvement in sentiment.

“Bank stocks have led the surge in equity markets [overnight] and most commodities have also enjoyed some gains, despite of a pullback in oil prices. The dollar is broadly stronger with safe haven currencies the underperformers,” Catril said.

In Singapore, the Straits Times index added 0.8 percent, following the release of its growth numbers for the January-March period. The city-state’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 1.8 percent on-year during the January-March period, the same as the previous quarter and slightly above the 1.7 percent forecast in a Reuters poll. On an on-quarter basis, GDP was flat, as expected.

At the same time, the Monetary Authority of Singapore surprised markets by easing its currency policy. The central bank, which uses exchange rates to guide policy instead of interest rates, set the rate of appreciation of the Singapore dollar’s trading band based on a basket of currencies, called the Singapore dollar nominal effective exchange rate (S$NEER),at zero percent.

The Singapore dollar weakened sharply after the release, with the U.S. dollar fetching 1.3610 Singapore dollars as of 10:28 a.m. HK/SIN time, compared with around 1.350 Singapore dollars before the release.

Asia markets trade up; Nikkei leads – CNBC}