HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Tech shares paced gains as most Asian stock markets surged on Thursday, with Chinese banks and insurance companies also putting in a strong performance.
Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -2.42% surged 2%, South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -3.94% gained 1.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -2.19% jumped 1.7%.
Louis Capital Markets sales trader Michael Hsia said investors began to rethink bad news weighing Chinese banks and turn their attention to attractive dividend yields. Insurance stocks were seen as potential beneficiaries from growth in the wealth management business.
”As interest rates drop money seems to be flowing back to life products rather than sitting in savings deposits,” Hsia said, referring to the structured savings plans offered by some insurance companies.
Gains in the insurance sector may also have been tied to expectations of a market-liberalization announcement by China financial regulators. After the close of trading in Hong Kong, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission said that mainland insurers would be allowed to invest in hybrid and convertible bonds.
Shares of Bank of Communications Co. Ltd, /zigman2/quotes/203442771/delayed HK:3328 -1.89% /zigman2/quotes/208048873/delayed BKFCF -10.96% were up 3.3%, while China Life Insurance Co. Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202359856/delayed HK:2628 -1.19% /zigman2/quotes/206573290/composite LFC -3.28% climbed 2.3%.
Other triggers for the day’s gains came from a surge in U.S. housing starts in June and from strong technology-sector earnings that pushed stocks on Wall Street higher on Wednesday. Read more on U.S. stock markets.
In Japan, shares of Advantest Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206869087/delayed JP:6857 -8.06% /zigman2/quotes/202479540/delayed ADTTF -8.70% jumped 6.5%, component maker Renesas Electronics Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203872935/delayed JP:6723 -5.14% /zigman2/quotes/201351352/delayed RNECY -11.96% climbed 7.4% and Hitachi Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203839937/delayed JP:6501 -2.16% /zigman2/quotes/203416411/delayed HTHIF +6.27% added 2.4%.
Tech-sector gains also showed up in other markets, with Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF 0.00% climbing 4% in Seoul. Internet firm Tencent Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 -1.53% /zigman2/quotes/207908563/delayed TCEHY -4.14% rose 2.5% in Hong Kong.
Telecommunications shares were also strong in Hong Kong after suffering recent declines. China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205091392/delayed HK:762 -0.67% /zigman2/quotes/205476740/composite CHU -3.91% rose 5.4%, and rival China Telecom Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206668971/delayed HK:728 -1.28% /zigman2/quotes/200463528/composite CHA -3.47% shot up 6.8%.
After the close of regular trading, China Unicom said in its monthly operating update that it had signed up 3.03 million 3G subscribers in June, lifting its total 3G subscriber base to 57.53 million.
A lift in New York-traded oil prices saw energy-sector firms gain in Asia. Inpex Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 -3.19% /zigman2/quotes/207958170/delayed IPXHY -3.07% gained 2.4% and Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. /zigman2/quotes/206309793/delayed SWSKF +35.25% rose 3.1% in Tokyo. Read Futures Movers.
Well-received updates gave an additional boost to some Australian energy-sector firms, with Woodside Petroleum Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203437212/delayed AU:WPL +0.76% /zigman2/quotes/206770672/delayed WOPEF +2.20% jumping 7.5% after it reported higher revenue and lifted annual guidance. Read more on Woodside outlook hike.
Also in Sydney, Santos Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/207349564/delayed AU:STO +4.27% /zigman2/quotes/207933640/delayed STOSF +6.97% climbed 5.8% after reporting an 18% rise in second-quarter revenue. Read more on Santos revenue report.
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Still, airlines saw some underperformance amid recent oil-price strength, with Qantas Airways Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205534063/delayed AU:QAN -3.85% /zigman2/quotes/200387630/delayed QUBSF 0.00% trading up 1% in Sydney, and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203532437/delayed HK:293 -2.17% /zigman2/quotes/208114856/delayed CPCAY -2.21% underperforming the broader Hong Kong market with a 0.8% gain.