HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets were mostly up Thursday as Tokyo hit a fresh 15-year high, driven by dip buying after the previous day’s fall while energy shares gained on higher oil prices.
The Nikkei 225 index added 200.59 points, to close up 1.08 per cent at 18,785.79, while the Topix index of all first-section issues was up 0.93 per cent, or 14.06 points, to 1,521.
South Korean shares closed 0.13 per cent higher, recovering from morning losses, with the benchmark KOSPI gaining 2.61 points to 1,993.08.
Moving against the regional trend, Sydney dropped 36.41 points, or 0.61 per cent, to finish at 5908.5 – as all sectors apart from energy stocks slipped into the red, snapping three straight days of gains.
Hong Kong was up 0.34 per cent in the afternoon after opening down, while China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was at 1.6 per cent in post-Lunar New Year holiday trade and amid talk that the state is eyeing easing measures.
“There’s chatter about more stimulus,” said Yen Chiu, a Hong Kong-based trader at Shenwan Hongyuan Group Co, Bloomberg News reported, adding: “China is a policy-driven market.”
Profit taking snapped the Nikkei’s five-day winning streak on Wednesday after the benchmark index reached levels not seen since the turn of the century.
“Japanese stocks have been overbought in the short term, and there’s a lack of catalysts, so chasing prices higher will be difficult,” said Mitsushige Akino, an executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management.
“On the other hand, it’s difficult to sell when there’s expectations of further excess liquidity” with central banks globally maintaining easy monetary policies, he said.
The dollar made up lost ground against the yen after falling when US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen hinted the central bank was in no hurry to raise rates.
The dollar fetched 118.95 yen, up from 118.86 yen in New York.
Markets have been rife with speculation over when this year the US central bank will start raising interest rates.
In a second day of testimony to the US Congress, Yellen provided no fresh clues on the timing of the rate increase, but again signalled that the Fed was in no rush.
“We did not see anything nefariously dovish in Yellen’s testimony,” National Australia Bank said.
“The only thing that is clear is that (the Fed policy-making) FOMC has given itself more flexibility than before,” the bank said in a note.
“If US data begins to… surprise once more, the market will quickly jump back on to the ‘buy USD’ bandwagon,” it said.
The euro stayed pressured as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said an agreement on a four-month extension of Athens’ bailout was merely a “starting point”.
Greece on Tuesday secured a four-month extension to its 240-billion-euro bailout, averting a potentially calamitous expiry on Saturday that could have seen Athens leave the euro.
After rebounding sharply Wednesday, oil prices fell in Asian trade but losses were curtailed as dealers focused on positive elements of a mixed US energy stockpiles report.
The latest official report by the Department of Energy showed stockpiles of gasoline and distillates falling, indicating rising demand, even as stocks of crude oil surged.
West Texas Intermediate for April eased 43 cents to $50.56 while Brent crude for April tumbled 31 cents to $61.32 in afternoon trade.
Gold fetched $1211.96 an ounce against $1,209.81 late Wednesday.