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Asian Shares Follow Wall Street Higher

stockmarkets dec19 25feb21 lt

Asian stocks rallied on Thursday as bond yields eased and dovish comments by U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell soothed worries around inflation and interest rates.

In his second day of testimony before Congress, Powell said the Fed plans to leave interest rates unchanged for a long time to come.

Chinese shares rose, helped by strong gains in the property sector. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended up 20.97 points, or 0.6 percent, at 3,585.05, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index surged up 355.93 points, or 1.2 percent, to 30,074.17.

Japanese stocks soared on economic optimism after the government said it is considering lifting a state of emergency in five prefectures, including Osaka and Kyoto. The Nikkei 225 Index rallied 496.57 points, or 1.7 percent, to 30,168.27, while the broader Topix closed 1.2 percent higher at 1,926.23.

Heavyweight SoftBank surged 3.8 percent, robotics company Fanuc soared 5.7 percent and Fast Retailing, the operator of Uniqlo brand clothing stores, climbed 2.4 percent. Automaker Suzuki Motor lost 3.3 percent after its 91-year old chairman, Osamu Suzuki, announced his retirement.

Australian markets advanced as surging oil prices boosted energy stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 56.20 points, or 0.8 percent, to 6,834, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 56.30 points, or 0.8 percent, at 7,105.70.

Santos and Woodside Petroleum jumped around 3 percent as oil extended gains for a fourth straight session to hover near 13-month highs on data showing a drop in U.S. crude output.

Technology stocks followed their U.S. peers higher. Buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay entered a trading halt after saying it was exploring an additional stock listing abroad.

Link Administration Holdings gained 2.3 percent after the superannuation services provider said shareholders of its unit PEXA agreed to explore the possibility of taking the online property transaction firm public.

Qantas Airways advanced 1.8 percent as the airline laid out an ambitious plan to resume almost all international flights beginning in late October. Miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group climbed 2-3 percent.

On the economic front, official data showed that private capital spending in Australia unexpectedly rose a seasonally adjusted 3.0 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Seoul stocks rallied on strong foreign and institutional buying. The Kospi spiked 104.71 points, or 3.5 percent, to 3,099.69 after the Bank of Korea kept its benchmark lending rate unchanged at a record low 0.50 percent and indicated it would maintain an accommodative stance in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor both jumped around 4 percent, while No.2 chipmaker SK Hynix soared 9.2 percent.

Meanwhile, New Zealand shares fell sharply as A2 Milk reported a decline in first-half earnings and lowered its forecasts for the full year.

The benchmark NZX-50 Index slumped 141.76 points, or 1.2 percent, to 12,140.66, while shares of the dairy company hit a more than two-year low before ending down about 16 percent.

U.S. stocks rose sharply overnight after Powell downplayed the risks of inflation and reaffirmed his view that the economy needs support.

Promising new data on Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine and a much bigger than expected jump in new home sales in the U.S. in the month of January also boosted sentiment.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 1.4 percent to a new record closing high, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index rallied 1 percent and the S&P 500 added 1.1 percent.

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