Asian Shares Move Up On Federal Reserve Minutes, China’s Services Sector

Asian stocks advanced on Thursday, as investors reacted to modestly hawkish Federal Reserve minutes and data showing a slight improvement in Chinese services sector activity.

Gold hovered near a seven-month peak as the dollar index extended losses ahead of key U.S. jobs data due on Friday that could influence the Federal Reserve’s policy trajectory.

Oil prices rose about 1 percent in Asian trading after opening the year down more than 9 percent, the worst yearly start in over three decades.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index rallied 1.0 percent to 3,155.22 after a private survey showed services activity in the country contracted at a slower pace in December.

Also aiding sentiment, China’s central bank said it would step up financing support to spur domestic demand and support a stable real estate market in 2023.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped 1.3 percent to 21,052.17 on hopes for China’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chinese government announced that it would reopen its border with Hong Kong on January 8, nearly three years after it was largely shut in an effort to contain the spread of COVID.

Japanese shares eked out modest gains as a weaker yen boosted exporters and tech shares followed their U.S. peers higher.

The Nikkei 225 Index rose 0.4 percent to 25,820.80, while the broader Topix settled marginally higher at 1,868.90. Sony, SoftBank Group, Advantest and Tokyo Electron climbed 2-4 percent. Nippon Sheet Glass topped the gainers list, surging 7.6 percent.

Seoul stocks closed higher for a second straight session, with financials and chip-related shares pacing the gainers. The Kospi inched up 0.4 percent to 2,264.65.

Hana Financial Group, KB Financial Group and Shinhan Group surged 7-8 percent on expectations the government’s recent easing of property regulations could increase demand for loans.

Australian stocks ended off their day’s highs as energy stocks tumbled, offsetting gains in the financial and technology sectors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index finished marginally higher at 7,063.60, while the broader All Ordinaries Index edged up 0.1 percent to 7,259.30.

Santos and Woodside Energy Group dropped 1-2 percent after oil prices opened the year with steep losses on fuel demand concerns. Warrego Energy soared more than 10 percent after Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Energy sweetened its takeover offer for the company.

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