Asian stocks ended broadly higher on Friday, Treasury yields fell and the dollar sank after a slew of Fed officials said there is a need for further rate increases at a slower pace. The dollar hung near its weakest level since May, helping gold prices trade near nine-month highs.
Oil prices were set to post a second straight week of gains after data showed Chinese November oil demand climbed to the highest level since February.
Chinese shares rose notably after a top official said the worst was over in the battle against Covid-19. Additionally, the People’s Bank of China kept benchmark lending rates unchanged for a fifth month, widely in line with expectations.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.8 percent to 3,264.81 in thin trading ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, when hundreds of millions of people are headed home.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped 1.8 percent to 22,044.65 as official data showed the city’s unemployment rate decreased for the eighth month in a row in December.
Japanese shares rose and the yen weakened, as data showed the country’s core inflation rose to 4 percent in December last year on an annualized basis, marking the highest since December 1981 and matching expectations.
The Nikkei 225 Index rose 0.6 percent to 26,553.53, while the broader Topix closed 0.6 percent higher at 1,926.87.
Airlines topped the gainers list after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced plans to downgrade the Covid disease to the equivalent of seasonal influenza in the spring.
Seoul stocks rose for a second day running, with tech and steel stocks climbing on hopes for a demand recovery in China. The Kospi gained 0.6 percent to settle at 2,395.26. SK Hynix, POSCO Holdings and LG Energy Solution all jumped around 3 percent.
Australian markets ended modestly higher as higher commodity prices boosted mining and energy stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index inched up 0.2 percent to 7,452.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index settled 0.2 percent higher at 7,666.30.
Whitehaven Coal shares soared 6.2 percent after the miner said it expected profit for the first half of fiscal 2023 to more than quadruple.
Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX-50 index jumped 0.8 percent to 11,977.48 as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation, saying she is unable to withstand the pressure of holding the country’s top executive post.
Respiratory equipment manufacturer Fisher & Paykel Healthcare soared 5 percent after issuing upbeat revenue forecast for fiscal 2023.