By Ese Erheriene
Equities in Asia extended gains for a third session early Wednesday as sustained political optimism, currency tailwinds and the growing prospect of a U.S. tax overhaul whetted appetite for risk.
Sparked by the success of centrist, market-friendly French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the election on Sunday, investors have shed prevote caution and piled into risk assets.
In U.S. trading, the Nasdaq Composite hit 6,000 for the first time.
“It’s a good time to hold equity,” said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Group. “It seems a dark cloud in the form of the French elections has swiftly departed from the investment landscape, combining effectively with headlines on Trump tax reform.”
As has been the case all week, Japan stocks helped lead the way in Asia. The Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.23% rose 0.6% amid further declines in the yen as it moves back from last week’s multimonth highs.
The dollar continued to gain overnight, and that has been extended in Asian trading as the greenback traded above ¥111.20, a full yen above when Tokyo stock trading wrapped up Tuesday. A weaker yen makes it cheaper for Japanese exporters to ship their goods around the globe. Such firms were among the morning’s stars, with Mitsubishi Motors /zigman2/quotes/202404490/delayed JP:7211 -0.40% and Sharp /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 +0.12% gaining some 2.5%.
Amid improved risk sentiment on reduced geopolitical tensions, an encouraging sign from the Trump administration on the tax front is liable to push the dollar higher still versus the yen, said Takuya Kanda of the Gaitame.com research institute. But he cautioned that the president’s proposals have often fallen far short of expectations and that the details on taxes may not come out until June.
Financials have been a bright spot among Asian stocks lately, thanks to a swath of better-than-expected bank earnings in the U.S. On Wednesday, Japan’s Topix bank subsection rose 1.2% to hit a three-week high ,while Australia’s “big four” banks gained about 1% each after trading reopened after a Tuesday holiday.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.36% rose 0.8%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +1.07% climbed 0.6% and Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +1.02% advanced 0.5% to hit a fresh six-year high.
Stocks also rose in China /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.43% , which has been a point of concern amid heavy selling there. For now, it seems to have hit its worst on Monday. There was a modest rebound Tuesday, and shares opened a bit higher Wednesday.
“One should keep an eye on Chinese markets given the pickup in concerns around tighter liquidity and regulation,” Weston said.
Elsewhere, oil futures retreated 0.4% after the American Petroleum Institute industry group issued bearish U.S. inventory data ahead of Wednesday’s government report.