Asian shares boosted by strong Wall Street rally

Asian shares boosted by strong Wall Street rally

Hong Kong: Asian shares rose on Wednesday, lifted by a rally on Wall Street following strong earnings by leading US firms, although trade was muted ahead of a key Fed policy decision.

The dollar jumped against the yen in late morning trade after Standard & Poor’s downgraded its outlook for Japan’s sovereign debt in the wake of last month’s quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Tokyo gained 1.29% by the break, Hong Kong opened 1.01% higher and Shanghai added 0.49% while Seoul rose 0.55%. Sydney was flat.

Regional investors took their cue from Wall Street where the Dow jumped 0.93% to a near three-year high on Tuesday following more strong earnings reports from corporate America.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite gained 0.77% and the S&P 500, a broad measure of the markets, added 0.90%.

Ford Motor posted its best first-quarter profit in 13 years, conglomerate 3M saw record sales and strong growth in Asia and United Parcel Services (UPS) saw net profit jump by two-thirds.

The data follows similarly powerful results from other big name firms last week including Apple, Intel and IBM, adding to a general upbeat economic outlook for the US.

However, Hiroichi Nishi, equity general manager at Nikko Cordial Securities, said: “Volume will likely remain low as the market awaits comments from the US Federal Reserve this week, and ahead of closely-watched domestic earnings."

Japanese investors are keeping tabs on the earnings of big firms to give an early indication of the economic impact of last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami while also keen to hear their outlook for the next few quarters.

Although the Fed is expected to keep interest rates at record lows after its two-day meeting on Wednesday, the key point of interest is whether it will keep its loose monetary policy, known as quantitative easing, in place.

S&P’s downgrade of its outlook on Japan to negative sent the dollar up against the yen.

The greenback, which in the morning had been at ¥81.44, rose to ¥81.70 after the announcement, from ¥81.55 in New York late Tuesday.

The euro, which had been at ¥119.58 earlier, was flat at ¥119.83 after the S&P move. The euro was at $1.4670 from $1.4636.

On oil markets New York’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for June, was down 19 cents at $112.02 a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for delivery in June eased 22 cents to $123.92.

Gold opened at $1,508.00-$1,509.00 an ounce in Hong Kong, down from Tuesday’s finish of $1,504.00-$1,505.00.