• Asian stock marts track Wall Street rally


    HONG KONG: Asian markets rose Wednesday following a rally on Wall Street as dealers welcomed a better-than-expected jump in US consumer confidence to a six-year high, while there was muted response to a missile test by North Korea.

    The euro eased slightly after the European Central Bank suggested it would be willing to further loosen monetary policy as it grapples with low inflation.

    Tokyo added 0.23 percent by the break, supported by investors picking up stocks to lock in dividends before the new tax year starts in April.

    Hong Kong jumped 1.11 percent, Sydney advanced 1.03 percent, Shanghai was up 0.15 percent and Seoul gained 1 percent.

    The three main indexes in New York enjoyed a rally on Tuesday, capping a two-session losing streak, after a closely watched confidence survey showed confidence among American consumers surging.

    The Conference Board’s index for March confidence came in at 82.3—its highest since January 2008—from 78.3 in February and far better than the 78.9 expected.

    The Dow rose 0.56 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.44 percent and Nasdaq added 0.19 percent.

    Asian traders seemed unmoved by news that North Korea test-fired two medium-range missiles early Wednesday, as US President Barack Obama hosted a landmark Japan-South Korea summit.

    South Korea’s defense ministry said the missiles flew 650 kilometers (400 miles) into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), upping the ante after a series of short-range missile and rocket launches by the North in recent weeks.

    However, while Washington condemned the tests as “troubling and provocative,” regional markets maintained their uptrend.

    In foreign exchange dealing the euro dipped after ECB president Mario Draghi said the bank would do what is needed to maintain price stability as weak price rises have fuelled fears of deflation in the eurozone.

    “If any downside risks to (our inflation) scenario appear, we stand ready to take additional monetary policy measures that ensure our mandate is fulfilled,” he said.

    ECB governing council member Josef Makuch, the Slovak central bank chief, echoed the sentiment, possibly pointing to a US-style quantitative easing program to hold rates low, or even, some speculate, taking interest rates negative.



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