Asian markets rise following US rally, strong consumption data

Asian markets rise following US rally, strong consumption data

Bangkok: Asian markets rose on Monday on renewed investor confidence after strong US consumption data and a rally on Wall Street on Friday diminished some concerns about the American economy.

Hong Kong’s market was lifted by gains in property developers, with the benchmark Hang Seng Index gaining 501.88 points, or 1.8%, to 28,128.80 in a half-day session ahead of a two-day Christmas break. Stocks also advanced strongly in China, South Korea and Taiwan.

Markets in Japan, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand were closed for national holidays or for Christmas Eve.

The Asian rally also helped the Bombay Stock Exchange. The benchmark Sensex rose 691.55 points, or 3.61%, to close at 19,854.12.

Asian investors were heartened by a US commerce department report on Friday that showed personal spending rose by 1.1% in November, the largest amount in three and a half years, easing concerns that the US economy—a vital export market for Asia—would slide into a recession.

News that US financial institutions, battered by the subprime mortgage crisis, were getting help from foreign investment institutions also buoyed sentiment. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. might get a cash infusion of as much as $5 billion (Rs19,750 crore) from Singapore’s state-owned Temasek Holdings Pte. Ltd. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.6% Friday to 13,450.7.

Still, investors remained anxious about the outlook for the US economy amid global fallout from the global credit squeeze. “Sentiment will remain cautious for the rest of the year and I think most investors are adopting a wait-and-see stance," said Peter Lai, a director at brokerage DBS Vickers in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong based property stocks gained on strong sales of apartments over the year. Henderson Land shot up 4.4% and Sun Hung Kai Properties rose 1.6%.

On the Chinese mainland, stocks rose strongly amid rosy earnings expectations for brokerages and a rebound in market heavyweight PetroChina. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 2.6%, or 132.48, to 5,234.26.

An interest rate hike last week, the sixth this year, helped the markets by relieving uncertainty over the issue, analysts said.

Last Friday, the markets rose not despite the interest rate hike announcement but because of it," said Simon Wang of Xiangcai Securities.

A string of regional markets will be closed Tuesday for Christmas, including Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea.

South Korean shares jumped on momentum from Friday’s big gain in US stocks.

Led by extended rallies in financial stocks, the Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, ended up 41.15 points, or 2.2%, at 1,919.47, the highest close since 12 December.

Singapore shares rose in a shortened trading day, with the Straits Times Index gaining 36.43 points, or 1.1%, to 3,434.53.

The Australian share market gained for the second straight session.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 76.6 points, or 1.2%, to 6,323.6 in extremely thin trading.

Taiwan shares rallied, with the Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange gaining 194.04 points, or 2.4%, to close at 8,135.48 points, the highest since 13 December.

Solid gains in US and other regional markets lifted New Zealand shares as investors headed for the long Christmas break in a largely positive frame of mind.

The benchmark NZX-50 rose 65.2 points, or 1.6%, to 4,058.7. It was the sharpest percentage gain in several months.