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Stocks in Japan and China lead Asian shares higher



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Nikkei 225 Index

Last Updated at 17 Nov 2017, 06:45 GMT Nikkei 225 one month chart
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Stocks in Japan and China led most Asian shares higher on Thursday despite ongoing investor concern in the US over a possible interest rate rise by the US Federal Reserve.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed up 1.43% at 18,991.11 points, with shares boosted by a weaker yen.

The US dollar was at 121.30 yen on Thursday in Tokyo compared to 121.44 yen in US trade.

A weaker yen gives a boost to Japan's big exporters.

It helps make their products cheaper to buy overseas and gives a boost to their earnings.

Rate cut

Investor relief at the news that the International Monetary Fund had agreed to put $10bn into Ukraine's struggling economy, over the next 12 months, also helped drive Japan's shares higher.

In China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up 0.51% at 23,839.73 in mid afternoon trade, while the Shanghai Composite was up 1.79% at 3,349.79.

In South Korea however, the benchmark Kospi reversed earlier gains to finish the day down 0.52% at 1,970.59.

Earlier on Thursday the government announced a surprise interest rate cut which had given a boost to shares.

The Bank of Korea said it had cut its benchmark lending rate by 25 basis points to a record low of 1.75%, its first cut in five months.

Analysts said the move was probably driven by a weaker economic outlook and fears over possible deflation, and they predicted further cuts this year.

The bank's move is in line with several other regional economies which have made interest rate cuts in order to boost growth.

Elsewhere in Asia

In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 closed up 0.98% at 5,850.17 points.

Official employment numbers released on Thursday showed 15,600 new jobs had been added to the economy in February, relatively in line with expectations for an addition of about 15,000 jobs.

The latest numbers also showed Australia's unemployment rate had remained steady at 6.3%, down slightly from 6.4% the month before.

Analysts said the figures would be unlikely to move the Reserve Bank of Australia any further towards another interest rate cut.

National Bank of Australia economist David de Garis said the numbers were in line with expectations and showed "something of a bounce back" - though not a very large one.

"The figures are not divergent enough from the consensus to swing the [interest rate] debate one way or the other," he said.

Some good news for the country's exporters came early on Thursday as the Australian dollar hit its lowest level since May 2009, reaching as low as 75.6 US cents.

The currency inched up slightly after the jobs numbers were released before steadying at 76.06 US cents.

A lower currency makes their goods cheaper for consumers to buy overseas.

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