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Asian shares track Wall Street rally, Tokyo’s benchmark at 33-year high

BANGKOK (AP) – Asian shares logged moderate gains on Friday after Wall Street benchmarks swept higher, extending their longest rally in a year and a half.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index closed at a 33-year high, advancing 0.7 per cent to 33,706.08 after the Bank of Japan (BOJ) wrapped up a policy meeting by keeping its ultra-lax monetary stance unchanged, as expected. It is a standout among central banks, most of which have sought to rein in inflation by raising interest rates.

The key Japanese rate has stayed at minus 0.1 per cent for a decade and policymakers have indicated they are not convinced that current inflation, which finally has surpassed the BOJ’s target of about two per cent, will be sustained.

“With extremely high uncertainties surrounding economies and financial markets at home and abroad, the Bank will patiently continue with monetary easing while nimbly responding to developments in economic activity and prices as well as financial conditions,” the BOJ said in a statement.

Share prices in Japan have been trading around their highest level in more than 30 years, while the Japanese yen has weakened against the dollar and other major currencies — reflecting the gap in interest rates in Japan and elsewhere.

The dollar rose to 140.79 yen from 140.29 yen late on Thursday.

In other Asian trading, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 1.3 per cent to 20,088.78 and the Shanghai Composite index was up 0.6 per cent at 3,272.67. In Seoul, the Kospi advanced 0.6 per cent to 2,623.97. Bangkok’s SET was flat and India’s Sensex was up 0.4 per cent.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 rallied 1.2 per cent to 4,425.84, its highest level since April 2022. The Dow gained 1.3 per cent to 34,408.06 and the Nasdaq climbed 1.2 per cent to 13,782.82.

A currency trader passes by screens at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea on June 16. PHOTO: AP

Suggesting spending by consumers is holding up despite higher interest rates on credit cards and other borrowing, a report showed sales at US retailers unexpectedly strengthened last month. Economists were forecasting a drop.

A separate report said slightly more workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than expected. Though the number is still relatively low compared with history, a tick higher could be a sign that a remarkably resilient job market is finally starting to loosen following the US Federal Reserve’s (Fed) barrage of rate hikes since early last year.

The market is still absorbing the Fed’s warning from a day earlier that it could raise interest rates two more times this year in its battle against inflation. It’s already hiked its benchmark rate to the highest level since 2007, which has helped slow inflation somewhat but has also caused severe pain in some areas of the economy.

The Fed is trying to find the right level for rates where it can slow spending by Americans enough to get inflation under control but not so much that it causes a deep recession. Economic reports on Thursday offered a mixed picture of how that effort is going.

The stock market has leaped nearly 24 per cent since hitting a bottom last October, as the economy has so far avoided a recession and inflation has come down from its peak last summer.

Traders expect the Fed’s to raise rates again at its next meeting, on July 25-26 but are mostly convinced that will be the last increase of the year, according to data from CME Group.

The Fed isn’t alone in keeping the pressure up on interest rates in order to battle inflation. The European Central Bank raised rates on Thursday and pledged more may be on the way, including at its next meeting in July.

In other trading on Friday, US benchmark crude oil added 13 cents to USD70.75 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It surged USD2.35 on Thursday to USD70.62 per barrel.
Brent crude, the international standard, was up 17 cents at USD75.84 per barrel.

The euro rose to USD1.0950 from USD1.0946.