HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets mostly rallied Thursday, with investors reversing a recent sell-off spurred by a Wall Street recovery and indications the Federal Reserve will keep rates on hold until mid-2015.
The dollar was boosted by comments from US central bank policymakers, which analysts said suggested they have changed tack and will not start to lift rates from record lows until the first six months of next year.
Tokyo climbed 2.32 per cent, or 390.32 points, to 17,210.05 as the greenback advanced against the yen, while Sydney jumped 0.95 per cent, or 48.9 points, to close at 5,210.8.
Hong Kong gained 1.09 per cent, or 246.37 points, to 22,832.21.
However, Seoul ended 0.14 per cent lower, dipping 2.66 points to 1,897.50, while Shanghai lost 0.11 per cent, or 3.50 points, at 3,057.52 following a four-day rally that saw it hit a four-year high.
The Fed’s policy committee said it “judges that it can be patient in beginning to normalise the stance of monetary policy,” adding that the decision will depend on economic data.
Policy, it said, was consistent with its prior statement that it would only begin raising rates “a considerable time” after its massive stimulus programme ended in October.
Although the change in language was subtle, “it was nevertheless a modification consistent with the view that rates are likely to rise in the first half of next year,” said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange.
The news sent US shares surging. The Dow rose 1.69 per cent, the S&P 500 soared 2.04 per cent and the Nasdaq jumped 2.12 per cent.
And on currency markets, the dollar gained in New York to 118.63 yen from 117.07 yen in Tokyo earlier Wednesday. In Asian trade Thursday, the greenback was at 118.60 yen.
The euro bought 146.34 yen and $1.2341, compared with 146.43 yen and $1.2343.
News that oil supplies in top consumer the United States had dipped helped to push crude prices up slightly Wednesday, providing some respite from a recent plunge.
But on Thursday in Asia, prices retreated again. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery was 16 cents down at $56.31 while Brent crude for February eased 28 cents to $60.90. Meanwhile, analysts said Russian moves to stabilise the ruble, which touched a record low against the dollar this week, seemed to be working.
Moscow said it would sell about $7 billion in foreign reserves to prop up its currency and also implement other measures to prevent a sell-off – soothing fears about Russia’s economic troubles spreading to the eurozone.
The moves helped the ruble to 58 against the dollar in early Moscow trade, well up from the 80 touched on Tuesday.
Gold was at $1,210.13 an ounce, compared with $1,197.34 late Wednesday.
In other markets, Taipei rose 0.57 per cent, or 50.27 points, to 8878.63. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. rose 0.77 per cent to Tw$131.5 while Hon Hai was 0.59 per cent higher at Tw$84.8. Wellington added 0.40 per cent, or 21.89 points, to 5,518.48. Trade Me was up 0.57 per cent at NZ$3.52 and Chorus gained 0.75 per cent to NZ$2.69.
Manila added 0.91 per cent, or 63.07 points, to 7,029.28. Philippine Long Distance Telephone added 0.72 per cent to 2,790.00 pesos and Universal Robina Corp. surged 2.04 per cent to 189.80 pesos, but Ayala Land fell 0.45 per cent to 32.85 pesos.
Kuala Lumpur added 1.07 per cent, or 18.05 points, to 1,699.95. Malayan Banking rose 1.54 per cent to 8.57 ringgit, while British American Tobacco fell 1.38 per cent to 62.90.
Jakarta ended up 1.54 per cent, or 77.70 points, at 5,113.35. Palm oil producer Astra Agro Lestari rose 4.02 per cent to 23,300 rupiah, while Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper lost 0.47 per cent to 1,065 rupiah.