Asian shares mostly higher on global growth hopes

Asian markets
Asian markets

(dpa-AFX) – Asian stocks ended broadly higher on Wednesday as the International Monetary Fund raised this year’s global economic growth forecast to 6 per cent, from its earlier estimate of 5.5 per cent, citing additional fiscal measures by advanced economies and the roll-out of vaccines.

Traders also looked ahead to the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest monetary policy meeting later in the day for additional clues on the outlook for interest rates.

Chinese and Hong Kong markets bucked the regional trend to end lower amid worries about policy tightening. China’s Shanghai Composite index ended on a flat note at 3,479.63, reversing early losses. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended down 263.94 points, or 0.91 per cent, at 28,674.80 as traders returned to their desks after a long holiday weekend.

Japanese shares ended slightly higher, with paper and pulp, transport and real estate stocks leading the gainers. The Nikkei average edged up 34.16 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 29,730.79, while the broader Topix index closed 0.67 per cent higher at 1,967.43.

Toshiba Corp’s shares soared more than 18 per cent after the technology conglomerate confirmed it had received a preliminary acquisition proposal from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners. Sharp Corp, Fujitsu and Hitachi rose between 1.7 per cent and 2.2 per cent.

Shipping firm Nippon Yusen climbed 3.3 per cent after raising its full-year profit forecast. Kawasaki Kisen jumped 4 per cent and Mitsui OSK Lines advanced 2.6 per cent.

Australian markets advanced as the latest reports on the construction sector and service sector activity painted a positive picture of the economy.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 42.10 points, or 0.61 per cent, to 6,928, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 43.50 points, or 0.61 per cent, at 7,177.40.

Miners and technology stocks ended mixed, while banks eked out modest gains. Gold miners Evolution and Newcrest rose 1-2 per cent after the precious metal hit a two-week high in the previous session. Northern Star Resources jumped 4.2 per cent, Resolute Mining added 5.5 per cent and Perseus mining surged 5.3 per cent.

Energy stocks such as Woodside Petroleum, Origin Energy, Oil Search and Santos rose 1-2 per cent. EML Payments soared 5.5 per cent on news it would be entering the European open banking market with the acquisition of Sentenial Limited and its wholly-owned subsidiaries.

Seoul stocks gained for the fifth straight session as foreign investors continued to scoop up local stocks on growing hopes for a swift economic recovery from the pandemic. The benchmark Kospi inched up 10.33 points, or 0.33 per cent, to close at 3,137.41. Markets ended off their day’s highs after South Korea reported the most daily coronavirus cases since early January.

Samsung Electronics shares dropped half a per cent after the chip and smartphone maker issued earnings guidance for the first three months of 2021.

South Korea posted a current account surplus of 8.03 billion dollars in February, the Bank of Korea said on Wednesday – coming roughly in line with expectations and up from 7.06 billion dollars in February.

New Zealand shares rose notably, reversing much of Tuesday’s decline. The benchmark NZX-50 index ended up 87.11 points, or 0.70 per cent, to 12,487.59.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare rose as much as 3.5 per cent to lead the gainers, while utilities Contact Energy, Mercury NZ and Meridian all ended up around 2 per cent.

US stocks fluctuated before ending slightly lower overnight as new trades linked to Archegos added unease to markets amid a quiet day on the economic front. The Dow dropped 0.3 per cent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index and the S&P 500 both ended marginally lower.

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