Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Thursday as investors looked past the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump to focus on the new fiscal stimulus expected under the Biden Administration. Positive Chinese trade data also offered some support.
Chinese shares fell on profit taking after recent gains on optimism about improving economic outlook and expectations of easy monetary policy.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite index ended down 32.75 points, or 0.91 percent, at 3,565.90, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.93 percent, to 28,496.86.
China’s exports continued to log robust growth in December driven by higher global demand for pandemic-induced goods, official data revealed today.
Exports grew 18.1 percent on a yearly basis in December, faster than the expected growth of 15.0 percent. Nonetheless, the rate of increase slowed from 21.1 percent posted in November.
Imports growth advanced to 6.5 percent from 4.5 percent a month ago. This was also faster than the economists’ forecast of +5.0 percent.
As a result, the trade surplus increased to $78.17 billion from $75.4 billion in the previous month. Economists had forecast the surplus to fall to $72.4 billion.
Japanese shares rose for the fifty day to close at a fresh 30-year high after data showed core machinery orders from domestic users excluding shipbuilders and power equipment makers improved for the second consecutive month in November.
The value of core machine orders rose a seasonally adjusted 1.5 percent sequentially in November – beating forecasts for a decline of 6.2 percent following the 17.1 percent spike in October.
On a yearly basis, core machine orders were down 11.3 percent – but that also beat forecasts for a fall of 15.4 percent following the 2.8 percent gain in the previous month.
The Nikkei average inched up 241.67 points, or 0.85 percent, to 28,698.26, marking its highest closing level since Aug. 3, 1990. The broader Topix index closed 0.48 percent higher at 1,873.28.
Market heavyweight SoftBank Group climbed 2.9 percent and Fast Retailing added 1.7 percent. Nikon Corp surged 7.2 percent, Yaskawa Electric jumped 5.3 percent and Daiwa Securities Group gained 2.3 percent.
Australian markets eked out modest gains ahead of U.S. stimulus unveiling. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 28.70 points, or 0.43 percent, to 6,715.30, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 28.80 points, or 0.41 percent, at 6,982.70.
Tech stocks snapped a three-day losing streak, with buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay climbing as much as 9.7 percent.
Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac rose 1-2 percent, while mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto gave up 0.4 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.
Gold miners Evolution Mining, Newcrest, Norther Star Resources and Regis Resources declined 1.2 percent.
On the economic front, official data showed the total number of building permits issued in Australia advanced a seasonally adjusted 2.6 percent month-on-month in November, coming in at 17,205. That was in line with expectations following the 3.8 percent increase in October.
Seoul stocks ended on a flat note as chipmakers and automakers fell on valuation concerns. The benchmark Kospi edged up 1.64 points, or 0.05 percent, to 3,149.93. SK Hynix lost 1.9 percent and Hyundai Motor slumped 3.3 percent.
New Zealand shares ended on a flat note with a negative bias after three consecutive sessions of losses.
The number of building permits issued in New Zealand advanced a seasonally adjusted 1.2 percent month-mon-month in November, Statistics New Zealand said.
U.S. stocks closed mixed overnight as investors awaited further stimulus support from the government and the House of Representatives started a debate over the article of impeachment against the outgoing President.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished marginally lower. The S&P 500 inched up 0.2 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.4 percent as Treasury yields stabilized.
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