Singapore: Asian stocks jumped on Wednesday and the dollar slipped as a surge in US manufacturing and strong company earnings convinced investors to pile back into riskier assets despite turmoil in Egypt.
Commodities prices remained high, bolstering shares of resources firms, with copper at record peaks near $10,000 a tonne on signs that the global economy is gathering strength, while Brent crude held above $100 per barrel -- its highest since October 2008.
After a million people took to the streets in Egypt on Tuesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he would surrender power in September, but that was not enough for many protesters who demanded an immediate end to his 30-year rule.
“The easing of the crisis in Egypt helped investors to concentrate on positive economic data from the US, boosting their appetite for equities,” said Hideyuki Ishiguro of Ikasan Securities.
Japan’s Nikkei index rose 1.9% - its biggest daily advance in two and half months -- as the latest in a string of bullish US economic data pushed Wall Street to its highest levels in 2-1/2 years.
The MSCI index of Asian shares outside of Japan climbed 0.9%, though activity was thin ahead of the long Lunar New year holidays in much of Asia.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 1.6% in a shortened session while Australia’s main benchmark gained 0.8% despite the approach of Cyclone Yasi, said by forecasters to be the strongest ever to strike the country.
The dollar was stuck near its lowest level in three months against the euro as robust economic data eased concerns over Egypt and coaxed investors out of safe-haven assets. The euro rose to $1.3853 on trading platform EBS, a touch higher than late US levels.
The US manufacturing sector grew at its fastest pace in nearly seven years, data showed overnight, but factories’ costs are also rising and are being passed on to consumers, raising fears of both a spike in inflation and a slowdown in sales as buyers baulk at higher prices.
On Wall Street, investors capitalised on last week’s pullback, sending the Dow to close over the psychologically important level of 12,000 for the first time since June 2008 and the S&P 500 to close above 1,300 for the first time since August 2008.
Markets considered the crisis in Egypt contained, with little risk of spreading elsewhere through the region for now after Mubarak said he would surrender power soon -- although this was rejected by opposition leaders and US President Barack Obama called for more rapid change.
Commodity prices remained strong, with London copper futures rallying to a record high just shy of $10,000 - bolstered by positive data from China and the United States.
North Sea Brent crude oil futures were little changed at just under $102 as unrest in Egypt continued to support energy prices. U.S. crude futures edged closer to $91.