Tokyo and Seoul lead Asia rally after Wall Street gains

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AFP/File / Kazuhiro NOGI Sony was the latest Asian tech giant to announce it was expecting record annual profits after the market closed Tuesday

Tokyo and Seoul led a rally in Asian shares Wednesday, on the back of strong earnings reports across the region including from tech giants Sony and Samsung.

The buying, after a muted start to the week in Asia, tracked overnight gains in the Nasdaq on Wall Street that saw it close at a fresh record.

Along with solid US economic data and growing expectations that a centrist continuity candidate will take over at the US Federal Reserve, the outlook for global growth remained broadly positive.

Asia has witnessed an impressive profit reporting season so far, with Sony the latest electronics blue-chip to announce it was expecting record annual profits.

Sony stocks surged 11.4 percent, with strong results attributed to its PlayStation games division and a booming smartphone parts business, as well as a hit with the newest Spider-Man movie.

Honda also revved up its annual profit outlook on motorcycle purchases, while a fall in Nissan passenger car sales after an inspection scandal appeared to have already been priced in by investors.

Tokyo finished at a fresh 21-year high, trading up 1.9 percent, as firms benefited from a weak yen — making their products more competitive in foreign markets and inflating repatriated profits.

The announcement from Japan’s central bank Tuesday that it would keep its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged, even though overseas counterparts have started turning off the stimulus taps, also contributed.

Seoul shrugged off data showing October exports rising by less than expected, with shares up 1.3 percent, led by Samsung. The flagship tech firm logged a record profit of $10.0 billion for the third quarter.

Hong Kong closed up 1.2 percent, reversing two days of losses, with the latest evidence of the city’s equity rally coming from internet giant Tencent’s e-book arm. The country’s answer to Amazon’s Kindle Store, China Literature has reportedly raised US$1.1 billion for a Hong Kong listing next week.

Shanghai edged up 0.1 percent, as new numbers showed Chinese factory activity stabilised in October, going some way to dispel the gloom of Tuesday’s official reading which suggested output growth had slowed.

Sydney also finished up, gaining 0.5 percent after a strong showing from miners and healthcare stocks.

At the start of trading in Europe, London and Paris both rose 0.4 percent, while Frankfurt jumped 0.9 percent after a public holiday Tuesday.

– US Federal Reserve meets –

Wall Street rose as data releases showed US consumer confidence hit a 17-year high in October, as congressional Republicans prepared to unveil President Donald Trump’s long-anticipated tax cut plan.

The result of the ongoing US Federal Reserve meeting is due after Asian markets close Wednesday.

Investors will scrutinise the announcement for indications of a widely anticipated December rate rise.

Overshadowing the whole process is Trump’s imminent decision on whether to replace Fed chief Janet Yellen, with the announcement likely to come Thursday before his departure on an 11-day Asia tour.

Centrist Jerome Powell is tipped as the front-runner, with investors pricing in his potential appointment over the more hawkish John Taylor.

Traders are also keeping a close eye on key payroll data out on Friday.

The New York attack by a truck driver that killed eight people, and Trump’s vow to ensure more robust “extreme vetting” of travellers to the US, did not appear to have affected investor sentiment.

Oil prices rose to a two-year high as OPEC members honoured pledges to curb supply and exports from northern Iraq fell.

– Key figures around 0830 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.9 percent at 22,420.08 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.2 percent at 28,594.06 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,395.91 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1645 from $1.1647 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3302 from $1.3283

Dollar/yen: UP at 113.91 yen from 113.65 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 52 cents at $54.90 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: FLAT at $61.37 per barrel

New York – DOW: UP 0.1 percent at 23,377.24 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,523.64