Asian Shares Rally As Mideast Worries Fade

Asian stocks rallied on Thursday as investors cheered U.S. President Donald Trump's tempered response to Iranian missile attacks.

Trump said there were no casualties from Iran's Wednesday attack on U.S. forces in Iraq, and indicated the U.S. would hit Iran with new sanctions, but not respond militarily.

China's Shanghai Composite index ended up 27.99 points, or 0.91 percent, at 3,094.88 as investors took stock of mixed inflation data. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained as much as 1.68 percent to end at 28,561.

China's consumer prices increased at a steady pace in December, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a report. Consumer prices advanced 4.5 percent year-on-year in December, the same rate as seen in November. Inflation was forecast to rise to 4.7 percent.

On the other hand, producer prices fell 0.5 percent annually after easing 1.4 percent a month ago. That marked the sixth month of contraction as manufacturers struggled with weak demand amid the trade war. Economists had forecast an annual drop of 0.4 percent.

Japanese shares posted strong gains as the safe-haven yen retreated on easing concerns of an all-out conflict in the Middle East. The Nikkei average jumped 535.11 points, or 2.31 percent, to 23,739.87, while the broader Topix index closed 1.63 percent higher at 1,729.05.

Market heavyweight Fast Retailing climbed 2.7 percent, Fanuc gained 1.9 percent and SoftBank Group jumped 4.7 percent. In the tech sector, Tokyo Electron soared 5.1 percent, Advantest added 3.6 percent and Screen Holdings gained 6.1 percent.

Australian markets rose sharply, with mining and energy companies leading the surge as Iran's retaliation so far turned out to be measured and caused no U.S. casualties.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 56.60 points, or 0.83 percent, to 6,874.20, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 61.30 points, or 0.88 percent, at 6,991.40.

Miners BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto rose between 1.2 percent and 1.7 percent as iron ore prices inched towards five-month highs on hopes of strong restocking demand in Chinese mills ahead of local holidays.

Banks ended mixed while healthcare stocks such as CSL and Cochlear advanced 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

The dream run for gold stocks ended, with Evolution, Newcrest and Northern Star Resources falling around 3 percent after safe-haven gold prices snapped a ten-session winning streak overnight.

Energy stocks snapped a five-day winning streak after oil prices fell over 4 percent overnight. Beach Energy tumbled 2.2 percent, Woodside Petroleum dropped 1.5 percent and Oil Search declined 1.8 percent.

Australia's trade surplus increased to a seasonally adjusted A$5.8 billion in November from A$4.07 billion in October on higher exports, official data showed today. The surplus was forecast to rise slightly to A$4.1 billion.

Seoul stocks jumped as chipmakers extended gains for the second day running amid easing concerns surrounding the Middle East conflict.

The benchmark Kospi rallied 35.14 points, or 1.63 percent, to 2,186.45, marking its sharpest single-day gain since Aug 30, 2019. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics climbed 3.2 percent and SK Hynix added 1.6 percent.

New Zealand shares gave up early gains to finish modestly lower. The benchmark NZX- 50 index slid 19.30 points, or 0.17 percent, to 11,537.68. Air New Zealand shares surged 2.1 percent as crude oil prices returned to the levels seen before the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani by the U.S. last week.

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