Bangkok: Most major Asian markets rose on Thursday after a mixed overnight session on Wall Street, with investors buying commodity, electronics and financial stocks.
Benchmark indices on the region’s two largest bourses in Tokyo and Hong Kong rose for the third straight day, although early trade meandered following comments by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke on the likelihood of a US recession in the first-half of the year.
Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index advanced 1.5% to 13,389.90, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.6% to 24,264.60.
In Japan, “the effect of the rising yen was strong enough to offset negative sentiment,” said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager at Nikko Cordial Securities. He noted that Bernanke also said he expects the economy to recover in the second half. “The stock market tends to look ahead,” he said.
Toshiba was a big gainer after it said unit Westinghouse Electric Co. is in final talks to take orders from two US power companies for next-generation nuclear power reactors. Its shares rose 5.9%. Other electronics share were also higher as the dollar climbed as high as 102.95 against the yen, the highest level in about three weeks.
Commodity shares benefited from a $12.40 rise in gold futures to $900.20 in New York. Inpex Holdings gained 4.5%. Sumitomo Metal Mining added 4.3%.
In Hong Kong, the market was lifted as Chinese blue chips continued to track gains in mainland stock markets.
In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index jumped 2.9% to 3,446.24 points as investors hoped the government will announce market-boosting measures over the three-day weekend starting Friday.
Steel makers, meanwhile, bounced back after recent losses due to uncertainty over iron ore prices. Baoshan Iron and Steel rose 5.4%, after falling more than 27% in the past two weeks. Wuhan Iron and Steel added 8.3%, after falling 31% over the same period.
Other blue chips also rebounded on hopes for new official measures to counter recent declines. Mainland regulators sometimes issue new policies during holiday periods to allow time for the news to sink in.
Stock markets in Hong Kong and China will be closed on Friday for the traditional grave-sweeping day. Trading will resume on Monday.
Elsewhere in Asia on Thursday, benchmark indices rose more than 1% in New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea. The S&P/ASX 200 index in Australia was the only one outside of China to near a gain of 2%.
The main stock measures fell in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
In the US on Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrials fell 0.4% to 12,605.80. Broader market indexes were narrowly mixed, with Standard and Poor’s 500 index falling 0.05% and the Nasdaq composite index rising 0.07%.