Hong Kong: Asian stocks rose on Thursday as fresh austerity measures promised by Spain and Portugal gave investors hope that Europe’s debt crisis can be contained, while IBM’s strong profit forecast gave a further boost to tech shares.
The euro struggled near 14-month lows, however, on worries that steep government spending cuts in parts of Europe would drag on the region’s already feeble economic growth.
Doubts about the euro’s long-term viability and worries about inflation continued to spur a flight into gold which shot to a fresh record for a second day in a row. The jump to $1,248.15 an ounce brought gold’s gains to nearly 20% since early February.
Spain said on Wednesday it will slash civil service pay and cut public jobs while Portugal’s finance minister told Reuters his government had identified new austerity measures to reduce its budget deficit, offering investors some reassurances that those countries are addressing their deep-rooted fiscal problems.
While worries remain that Greece and other governments will not be able to deliver on deeply unpopular spending cuts, there were signs that recent strains in global money markets were easing, further buoying investor confidence.
The three-month dollar London interbank offered rate (LIBOR) was unchanged after rising steadily during the height of the worries about Europe’s sovereign debt problems.
Those developments, coming just a few days after EU finance ministers approved a 750 billion euro ($1 trillion) bailout package to keep Greece’s debt crisis from spreading through the region, inspired U.S. stocks to their best three-day run in 10 months, with key indexes gaining up to 2.1 percent.
US markets were also lifted by a strong outlook from tech bellwether, which forecast it would roughly double its profit by 2015, fueling bullishness on the sector.
By mid-morning the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 1.4% higher with the technology index outperforming the broad market with a 2.1% rise.
Tech-heavy stock markets in South Korea and Taiwan rose up to 1.8%. Both had seen several days of selling by foreign investors earlier in the week, but data showed overseas buyers were returning to Korean shares on Thursday.
Japan’s Nikkei gained 1.5% as buyers snapped up tech stocks like Advantest, which makes micro chip testing equipment, and shares of other companies which have recently released upbeat earnings and sales outlooks. Advantest jumped 3.3%.
“Worries about southern Europe’s finance problems, which started from Greece, are receding thanks to a series of measures and safety nets to deal with the crisis,” said Mitsuo Shimizu, deputy general manager at Cosmo Securities.
In Taiwan, chipmakers Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) and UMC boosted the main TAIEX share index by 1.4%.
“US data and earnings have helped, meaning stocks are moving on news from abroad,” said Chu Yen-min, senior vice-president at KGI Securities in Taiwan. “This market correction is on international factors.”
The euro edged up 0.3% against the dollar, but traders said any gains were likely to be limited, with investors expected to sell into any rallies such as the one on Monday, when the single currency briefly jumped on news of the massive rescue package.
“Financial markets overall have been returning to calm but the euro remains on a downtrend,” said Kosuke Hanao, head of treasury product sales at HSBC in Tokyo.
“Although the panic sell-off in the euro has eased at the moment, the downside risk still remains,” he said.
Near-term psychological support for the euro is seen at around $1.25, its 14-month low hit last week. But some in the market see the currency falling below $1.2400 as it did in 2008.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar rose as high as as $0.8994 after data showed the domestic economy added 33,700 jobs in April, handily beating forecasts for a 20,000 rise.
Despite the strong growth numbers, there was little impact on Australian rates market since the central bank is expected to hold rates until November because of the European worries.
Crude oil futures eased 25 cents to $75.40 a barrel.