World Markets

Asian Shares Follow Wall Street Higher

(RTTNews.com) - Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Thursday after the U.S.Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, as widely expected, and said it would be patient in lifting borrowing costs.

Chinese shares ended higher even as data showed the country's manufacturing activity contracted for the second consecutive month in January.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 9 points or 0.35 percent to 2,584.57 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended up 1.08 percent at 27,942.47.

Activity in China's vast manufacturing sector continued to contract in January, albeit at a slower pace, the latest survey from the National Bureau of Statistics showed with a PMI score of 49.5.

That beat expectations for a score of 49.3 and was up from 49.4 in December. The non-manufacturing index came in at 54.7, topping forecasts for 53.9 and up from 53.8 in the previous month.

Japanese shares rose sharply after the Fed sounded more dovish than expected and said risks to the outlook are roughly balanced.

The Nikkei average rallied 216.95 points or 1.06 percent to finish at 20,773.49, while the broader Topix index closed 1.08 percent higher at 1,567.49, the highest closing level since mid-December.

Chip equipment maker Advantest Corp jumped 7.9 percent after raising its annual operating profit outlook. Apple supplier TDK Corp soared 8.1 percent while Screen Holdings plunged 10.4 percent after cutting its profit outlook.

Sharp Corp fell 2.4 percent as it lowered its fiscal 2018 group sales and operating profit outlook due to the possible negative effects of the prolonged U.S.-China trade dispute.

Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma slumped almost 17 percent to extend steep losses from the previous session on disappointment over its unsuccessful joint drug clinical trial with SanBio Co.

In economic news, a government report showed that Japan's industrial output fell a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent sequentially in December. That exceeded expectations for a decline of 0.5 percent following the 1.0 percent drop in November.

Australian markets fell slightly despite positive cues from offshore markets. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slid 22 points or 0.37 percent to 5,864.70 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 13.90 points or 0.23 percent at 5,937.30.

The big four banks fell between 1.6 percent and 2.5 percent ahead of the publication of the royal commission findings later this week. Oil and gas explorer Beach Energy soared 5.6 percent after raising production guidance.

Mining stocks ended mixed after three sessions of gains. BHP rose 0.7 percent while Rio Tinto slipped 0.3 percent. Smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group jumped 4.2 percent after it reported a rise in second quarter iron ore shipments.

Seoul stocks ended little changed after Samsung Electronics, the world's biggest smartphone and memory chipmaker, forecast weaker 2019 earnings. The benchmark Kospi finished marginally lower at 2,204.85 while Samsung shares ended half a percent lower.

Industrial output in South Korea fell a seasonally adjusted 1.4 percent sequentially in December, Statistics Korea said today - following the 1.6 percent monthly drop in November.

On an annual basis, industrial production climbed 1.6 percent - accelerating from 1.1 percent in the previous month.

New Zealand shares ended notably higher, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ending up 59.82 points or 0.67 percent at 8,985.34. Dairy giant a2 Milk rallied 3.7 percent.

Overnight, U.S. stocks surged to close at their best levels in nearly two months as investors reacted positively to earnings news from big-name companies like Boeing and Apple, and the Fed's dovish policy stance.

Economic reports painted a mixed picture showing stronger than expected private sector job growth but an unexpected decrease in pending home sales.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 1.8 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped as much as 2.2 percent and the S&P 500 added 1.6 percent.

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