Bangkok, Thailand: Asian markets advanced on Thursday, with Hong Kong jumping 4.6% in a catch-up rally, as the US House of Representatives approved a $819 billion stimulus Bill that investors hope will help lift the American economy out of its worst crisis in decades.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average rose 144.95 points, or 1.8%, to 8,251.24 even as new data showed that retail sales in the world’s second largest economy sank the most in nearly four years in December.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng leaped 575.83 points, or 4.6%, to 13,154.43 after being closed for three days for the Lunar New Year. Mainland China’s markets are closed all week. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.7% and Australia’s main index rose 0.9%.
Sentiment in Asia got a boost as US President Barack Obama’s massive stimulus package moved closer to becoming a reality.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved the bill on Wednesday night, sending it to the Senate where debate could begin as early as Monday. Democratic leaders have pledged to have legislation ready for Obama’s signature by mid-February.
“The US stimulus package has a positive psychological impact on markets globally,” said Castor Pang, an analyst at Sun Hung Kai Financial in Hong Kong.
“But there is still going to be bad news in the form of profit warnings and unemployment,” he said. “The unemployment rate is going to continue to climb, making US consumers even more hesitant about spending.”
Financial stocks led Asia’s advance on Thursday, buoyed in part by hopes of new US efforts to trim bad debt and spur lending. In Hong Kong, banking giant HSBC jumped 8.4% and China’s top lender, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd, or ICBC, added 5%.
In Tokyo, megabank Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group soared 13%, Mitsubishi UFJ jumped 4.8% and Mizuho added 5.2%.
Japanese exporters such as Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. reported weak quarterly results after the market closed.
Elsewhere, New Zealand’s benchmark index was up 0.8% after the central bank slashed its key interest rate by 1.5 percentage points to 3.5%.