TOKYO: Asia stocks jumped on Wednesday, building on a strong lead from Wall Street and Europe, and as investors adjusted to the prospect of a US rate hike in the near future.
Energy stocks soared in Hong Kong and Sydney as oil prices rebounded, while in Tokyo exporters were lifted by a weaker yen, which is a plus for their profitability.
The gains in Asia followed a jump in European markets, which had received a boost Tuesday as Brexit fears eased on the back of opinion polls that suggested Britain will vote to remain in the European Union next month.
Wall Street stocks also had a good day after Commerce Department figures showed US new-home sales in April surged to their best level since January 2008, prompting analysts to see a strengthening in the housing market, a key sector for US growth.
The Fed has repeatedly stated its intention to continue raising rates this year after December’s first hike in nine years, but until recently investors had discounted the possibility of an imminent increase, given the market panic at the beginning of 2016 on concerns of soft global growth.
“Strong US new-home sales have added credence to the Fed’s claims that the US economy may be strong enough for another rate hike in June or July,” Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at IG in Melbourne, said in a commentary.
The markets are now reacting well to the news, analysts said, as a sign the economy is doing better.
“Before, there was a sense that higher rates would spell trouble, but the market has had time to digest that,” Bill Schultz, chief investment officer at McQueen, Ball & Associates Inc in Pennsylvania told Bloomberg News.
“People may be coming around on the idea of a rate hike as an indication of economic strength. Maybe there’s a bit more of an optimistic view, and today we’re rallying through the close.”
Hong Kong added 2.6 percent in afternoon trade while Taipei, Manila and Singapore were all above or hovering around the one percent mark.
Sydney closed 1.5 percent higher and Seoul ended up 1.2 percent. Shanghai flitted in and out of positive territory to close 0.23 percent lower.
Oil rebounds, lifts energy firms
Tokyo surged 1.6 percent during the session, as the dollar advanced against the Japanese currency. A weaker yen is good for Japanese exporters, a key driver of the world’s third largest economy, by inflating the value of their profits earned overseas.
The greenback was at 110.06 yen by the close, up from 109.99 yen in New York and 109.22 yen in Tokyo Tuesday on mounting expectations of a US interest rate increase.
Energy stocks were among the best performers regionally, as oil prices edged towards $50 a barrel in Asia after a larger-than-expected dip in US stockpiles resulting from wildfires that have disrupted oil production in Canada.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was up 78 cents to $49.40 a barrel in the afternoon, a new seven-month high, and Brent crude was trading 72 cents higher at $49.33 a barrel.
Hong Kong-listed China Shenhua Energy soared 6.6 percent, CNOOC advanced 4.2 percent and PetroChina was up 4.7 percent. In Sydney, WorleyParsons closed 7.6 percent higher and Santos gained 2.6 percent, while in Tokyo, explorer Inpex gained 1.1 percent.
Also in Tokyo, automaker Toyota climbed almost two percent following overnight news of a partnership with ridesharing titan Uber and consumer electronics giant Sony increased more than six percent after investors shrugged off a weak profit forecast.