Asian stocks rose broadly on Wednesday on speculation of more stimulus measures from the Chinese and European central banks. The ECB and the Bank of England are scheduled to announce their policy decisions tomorrow and investors are seemingly banking on them to deliver further stimulus measures to help spur weak global growth.
Meanwhile, a raft of Chinese economic data due over the next few days will shed further light on whether Beijing is responding adequately to prevent a deeper economic slowdown. Commodities such as crude and copper fell and the euro weakened against major currencies ahead of central bank meetings and amid lack of trading cues due to the U.S. holiday.
Japan's Nikkei index rose 0.4 percent to its highest level since May 8, although overall trading remained relatively subdued ahead of the U.S. Independence Day holiday. Commodity-related shares led the gainers as crude prices soared overnight. Japan's top oil and gas explorer Inpex and Japan Petroleum Exploration climbed about 3 percent each, while trading companies Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corp. rose 2.3 percent and 3 percent, respectively.
Exporters also saw selective buying, with Tokyo Electron and Nikon rising 1-2 percent. Silicon wafer maker Sumco Corp. soared 4.2 percent after its U.S. peer MEMC Electronic Materials announced the sale of four solar farms in Europe. Steelmaker JFE Holdings tumbled 5.2 percent on equity dilution worries.
Australian stocks rose sharply taking cues from the U.S. and European markets overnight. Both the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 and the broader All Ordinaries indexes gained about 1.1 percent each. Financial stocks led the gainers, with ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB rising about half a percent each, while Westpac ended unchanged with a negative bias. Investment bank Macquarie Group fell 0.9 percent after it was linked to the ongoing David Jones' takeover scandal.
Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto gained 2-3 percent, smaller rival Fortescue climbed 3.7 percent and gold miner Newcrest soared 3.5 percent. In the energy sector, Linc Energy rose 1.3 percent as it announced job cuts as part of cost cutting measures. Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Santos all ended up about 2 percent each.
In economic news, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that retail sales in Australia added a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent from the previous month in May, beating expectations for an increase of 0.2 percent. Separately, Australia's services sector showed improvement in June, with an index measuring the sector coming in with a score of 48.8 against the May reading of 43.5.
Seoul shares edged higher, with the benchmark Kospi average rising 0.4 percent, as speculation that Chinese and European policymakers will announce stimulus measures gained ground. Samsung Electronics, the world's No. 1 memory chip maker, rose 1.4 percent ahead of its earnings guidance to be released on Friday, automakers Kia Motors and Hyundai Motors added 1-3 percent following a pullback yesterday and LG Display climbed 2.7 percent.
New Zealand shares rallied, lifting the benchmark NZX 50 index up 1.1 percent to a two-month high. Heavyweight Telecom rose 2.7 percent amid heavy volumes after the government appointed Stephen Gale, an associate member of the Commerce Commission, to oversee the telecommunication sector.
Fletcher Building, the nation's largest construction company, added a percent, extending gains for a second consecutive session after data showed Australia's home-building approvals soared in May. Kathmandu Holdings the outdoor clothing and equipment company, jumped 6.1 percent following surprisingly upbeat Australian retail sales data.
Elsewhere, China's Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.08 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped 0.13 percent from a 7-week high, dragged down by financials. India's benchmark Sensex was last trading up 0.2 percent in volatile trading, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was up 0.8 percent, Malaysia's KLSE Composite gained 0.3 percent, Singapore's Straits Times index was up 0.2 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average gained marginally.
On Wall Street, stocks ended a holiday-shortened session higher overnight, with a report from the Commerce Department showing a surprise jump in factory orders in May and news of strong June sales by U.S. automakers underpinning sentiment. However, trading activity remained relatively subdued before the Independence Day holiday on Wednesday. The Dow and the S&P 500 rose about 0.6 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.8 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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