Asian markets have mostly risen 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 on Wednesday after the European Central Bank suggested it would be willing to further loosen monetary policy as it grapples with low inflation.
Tokyo added 0.37 per cent, or 53.97 points, to finish at 14,477.16, buoyed by investors picking up stocks to lock in dividends before the new tax year starts in April.
Sydney gained 0.75 per cent, or 40.2 points, to 5,376.8 and Seoul rose 1.19 per cent, or 23.06 points, to 1,964.31.
Hong Kong gained 0.72 per cent, or 155.43 points, to 21,887.75.
However, Shanghai slipped 0.18 per cent, or 3.64 points, to 2,063.67.
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 per cent, the S&P 500 added 0.44 per cent and Nasdaq added 0.19 per cent.
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 defence ministry said the missiles flew 650 kilometres 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.
ECB policy makers “are ready to adopt non-standard measures to prevent slipping into a deflationary environment”, Makuch said.
The euro fetched $US1.3818 in afternoon Tokyo trade, against $US1.3825 late Tuesday in New York, and sharply lower than the $US1.3840 in Asia on Tuesday before the comments. It also sat at Y141.34, compared with Y141.36.
The US dollar edged up to Y102.29 from Y102.25 in New York.
On oil markets New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for May delivery, was up six US cents at $US99.25 a barrel in afternoon trade, and Brent crude for May climbed 10 US cents to $US107.09.
Gold fetched $US1,314.55 an ounce at 1050 GMT compared with $US1,313.10 late Tuesday.
In other markets:
– Singapore jumped 1.26 per cent, or 39.15 points, to 3,143.32.
DBS bank advanced 0.94 per cent to $Sg16.19 and Singapore Telecom gained 1.12 per cent to $Sg3.61.
– Bangkok added 0.47 per cent or 6.43 points to 1,360.44.
Airports of Thailand gained 1.84 per cent to 194.00 baht, while telecoms company Advanced Info Service rose 1.33 per cent to 228.00 baht.
– Jakarta ended up 0.53 per cent, or 25.15 points, at 4,728.24.
Palm oil producer Astra Agro Lestari rose 1.91 per cent to 25,400 rupiah, while cement maker Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa lost 0.10 per cent to 24,200 rupiah.
– Kuala Lumpur’s main stock index inched up 0.11 per cent, or 1.97 points, to 1,839.14.
RHB Capital gained 0.7 per cent to 8.35 ringgit, while Telekom Malaysia added 1.5 per cent to 6.20. Palm oil giant Sime Darby slipped 0.2 per cent to 9.25 ringgit.
– Mumbai rose 0.18 per cent or 40.09 points to end at 22,095.30 points. Ashok Leyland rose 11.36 per cent to 22.55 rupees and Oberoi Realty gained 9.69 per cent to 217.95 rupees per share.
– Taipei rose 0.55 per cent, or 47.97 points, to 8,737.27.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. jumped 1.76 per cent to $Tw115.5 while Hon Hai was 0.35 per cent higher at $Tw86.0.
– Wellington eased 0.11 per cent, or 5.81 points, to 5,124.88.
Air New Zealand was up 1.58 per cent at $NZ1.92 while Contact Energy fell 1.13 per cent to $NZ5.23.
– Manila ended 0.19 per cent higher, adding 12.16 points to 6,348.50.
Conglomerate Ayala Corp. rose 1.43 per cent to 566 pesos, while Philippine Long Distance Telephone inched down 0.07 per cent to 2,702 pesos.