Asian equities hit new highs on European QE; oil prices in focus

23.01.2015 06:37

Asian equities hit new highs on European QE; oil prices in focus

See Kit Tang |


Asian equity markets posted an upbeat performance on the final trading day of the week, tracking a global rally after the European Central Bank (ECB) unleashed a 1 trillion euro ($1.11 trillion) stimulus package to resuscitate the deflation-hit euro zone.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has set the ticker boards alight across the globe with investors responding favourably to another central bank deploying more stimulus. As European equities rallied heading into the ECB meeting and the euro fell, there was a real risk that the outcome would disappoint and spark a reversal in price action. Having disappointed on a number of occasions in the past, it was important for Mario Draghi to get it right this time and keep the momentum going.

Overnight, U.S. stocks extended gains into a fourth session, on the back of the ECB’s larger-than-expected easing measures and upbeat quarterly earnings from companies including Southwest Airlines. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 gained 1.5 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq piled on 1.8 percent.

In Europe, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 closed 1.6 percent higher – its highest closing level since early 2008 – on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Markets also digested news that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has died early Friday, making his brother Salman king of the oil-rich nation. U.S. crude jumped nearly 2 percent to $47.15 a barrel in early Asian trade after the news broke, while Brent gained 1.9 percent to hit $49.43 a barrel.

NIKKEI Nikkei 225 Index 17491.82
162.80 0.94%
HSI Hang Seng Index 24831.27
308.64 1.26%
ASX 200 S&P/ASX 200 5486.30
66.36 1.22%
SHANGHAI Shanghai Composite Index 3389.92
46.58 1.39%
KOSPI KOSPI Index 1934.24
13.42 0.70%
CNBC 100 CNBC 100 ASIA IDX 7131.92
58.15 0.82%

Mainland indices up

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 1.4 percent to a one-week high by midday, supported by a better-than-anticipated HSBC flash China’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI). The flash reading came in at 49.8, after registering a 49.6 final reading in December, its first contraction in seven months. Despite the reading remaining in contraction territory, euphoria from the ECB helped to underpin buoyant sentiment.

Insurance stocks China Life Insurance and China Pacific Insurance were among the top gainers for the third consecutive session; shares of both companies bounced up 10 and 4.5 percent, respectively. Ping An Insurance recouped Thursday’s losses with a nearly 4 percent rise.

Haitong Securities elevated 3.3 percent after it announced a positive earnings alert for 2014.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index held steady at a more than 4-month high after jumping 1.3 percent. Shares of Hutchison Whampoa is in focus after being halted from trading in Hong Kong on news that the company is nearing a deal to buy U.K. mobile phone operator O2.


Nikkei rises 1%

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 held on to a near three-week high, despite the yen strengthening slightly to touch 118.3 in the afternoon session.

Exporters stocks pulled back modestly as a result of a stronger currency; Toyota Motor climbed 1.2 percent, while Suzuki Motor and Honda added nearly 2 percent each. Oil-related counters turned negative despite the spike in crude oil prices, with JX Holdings and Showa Shell erasing early gains to slip 0.2 percent each.

Index heavyweights provided some support for the bourse, as Softbank and Fast Retailing tacked on nearly 4 and 1 percent, respectively.

Read MoreIs the Bank of Japan’s Kuroda losing credibility?

ASX climbs 1.3%

Australia’s S&P ASX 200 index rocketed to a more than two-month high ahead of a long weekend, while the Australian dollar hovered near a multi-year low of $0.8021 to the dollar, after briefly rising to hit $0.8049 following an above-view preliminary gauge of Chinese manufacturing activities. Markets in down under will be closed on Monday for the Australia Day holiday.

The energy sector is in focus on the back of sharp moves in the price of crude oil; Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum shot up nearly 3 percent each, while Santos bolstered 4.6 percent after it reported a 2 percent rise in fourth quarter revenue.

Miners were also firmer despite overnight weakness in iron ore prices. BHP Billiton led the sector with a 1.3 percent gain, while Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto added 0.2 and 0.4 percent each.

EM Asia up

India’s Nifty index powered 1.1 percent to record highs at the open, as investors lapped up the launch of stimulus in the euro zone.

Thailand shares are in focus on Friday, as the country’s National Legislative Assembly votes in an impeachment hearing against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, following a controversial rice-pledging program. The benchmark SET index was up 1 percent to a more than 6-week high, while the baht traded little moved at 32.61 to the dollar.

Read MoreWill ECB’s bazooka be a game changer for EMs?

Kospi up 0.7%

South Korean shares hit a near a four-week high, as ECB’s bazooka offset data which showed the nation expanding slightly less than expected in the three months to December. South Korea expanded 2.7 percent on year in the fourth quarter, just below expectations for a 2.8 percent increase in a Reuters poll.

Index heavyweights contributed to the robust showing; Samsung Electronics, the heaviest weighted stock on the Kospi, added 0.4 percent, while Hyundai Motor reversed a negative open to bump up nearly 2 percent. Energy plays were among the top gainers for the day, with LG Chem rising 1.6 percent and S-Oil rallying 1.1 percent.

Kia Motors bucked the rising trend to notch down over 1 percent, as cautious sentiment took over ahead of the carmaker’s fourth quarter earnings guidance due to be released later in the day.


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