Asian Shares Rise Ahead Of Lunar New Year Holiday

Asian stocks rose on Wednesday despite U.S. stocks finishing on a lackluster note overnight. Optimism about more fiscal stimulus and falling coronavirus infections rates helped to underpin investor sentiment to some extent.

Chinese shares posted strong gains in the last trading session before the Lunar New Year holiday as the latest inflation and bank lending data underscored a recovery in the world’s second-largest economy.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index jumped 51.60 points, or 1.4 percent, to 3.655.09, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended up 562.53 points, or 1.9 percent, at 30,038.72.

Consumer prices in China were up 1.0 percent month-on-month in January, the National Bureau of Statistics said, in line with expectations following the 0.7 percent increase in December.

On a yearly basis, consumer prices fell 0.3 percent – shy of expectations for a flat reading following the 0.2 percent gain in the previous month.

The bureau also said that producer prices rose 0.3 percent year-on-year in January – missing forecasts for an increase of 0.4 percent after sinking 0.4 percent a month earlier.

China’s new bank loans surged to new highs in January, boosted by seasonal demand, while broad credit growth slowed, separate data showed.

Japanese shares edged up slightly to close at a fresh 30-year high, helped by robust corporate earnings. The Nikkei 225 Index inched up 57.00 points, or 0.2 percent, to 29,562.93, marking its highest finish since August 2, 1990. The broader Topix closed 0.3 percent higher at 1,930.82.

Automaker Toyota Motor climbed 1.7 percent and auto-parts supplier Denso edged up slightly after start-up Aurora agreed to a long-term strategic partnership with the firms. Nissan Motor surged 3.7 percent after revising its full-year outlook.

Honda Motor soared 5.1 percent as it reported a 144 percent surge in profit for the third quarter and raised its full-year outlook.

Australian markets advanced as investors cheered strong domestic earnings reports. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 35.70 points, or 0.5 percent, to 6,856.90, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 31.70 points, or 0.5 percent, at 7,133.80.

Tech stocks followed their U.S. peers higher, with Afterpay climbing 4.2 percent and Wisetech Global adding 2.2 percent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s largest lender, declined 1.5 percent despite reporting better than expected first-half cash profit and declaring a higher dividend.

Insurance Australia Group shares jumped 4.6 percent after the insurer posted impressive half-yearly results.

Northern Star Resources advanced 1.6 percent as the gold miner reported record profit, cashflow and interim dividends in its first-half results.

Viva Energy shares surged 6.3 percent and Origin Energy gained 1.4 percent after oil prices rose for a seventh straight session Tuesday to hit a 13-month high.

In economic news, a government report showed the total number of building permits issued in Australia climbed a seasonally adjusted 10.9 percent month-on-month in December, matching expectations.

Separately, the latest survey from Westpac Bank and the Melbourne Institute showed that a measure of consumer confidence in the country rose 1.9 percent to a reading of 109.1, following the 4.5 percent drop in January.

Seoul stocks gained ground to snap a two-session losing streak, with tech companies and automakers pacing the gainers ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday period, which runs from Thursday to Sunday.

The Kospi rose 15.91 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,100.58. Naver rallied 2.2 percent, Hyundai Motor jumped 3.6 percent and its affiliate Kia Motors added 1.8 percent.

Meanwhile, New Zealand shares fell notably, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index ending down 97.66 points, or 0.8 percent, at 12,830.03, dragged down by utilities. Meridian Energy lost 4.5 percent and Contact Energy gave up 3.8 percent.

U.S. stocks ended on a lackluster note overnight as investors kept an eye on stimulus negotiations and impeachment proceedings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged marginally lower and the S&P 500 slipped 0.1 percent after closing higher for six consecutive sessions. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite inched up 0.1 percent to a fresh record closing high.

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