HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Most Asian markets pushed higher Thursday after the International Monetary Fund unveiled a plan to boost its lending resources and the Chinese central bank moved to ease liquidity in the money markets.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.34% rose 1% to 8,639.68 and South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.67% gained 1.2% to 1,914.97. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.25% closed down 0.1% to 4,214.80, under-performing other regional markets after an unemployment report disappointed. Read more on Australian jobless data.
China’s Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +2.30% climbed 1.3% to 2,296.08 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.17% gained 1.3% to 19,942.95.
The gains came after the People’s Bank of China offered 183 billion yuan ($29 billion) in 14-day reverse repurchase agreements Thursday. The injection, coming amid tight liquidity ahead of next week’s Lunar New Year holidays, pulled short-term borrowing rates lower in Chinese interbank money markets.
Michael Hsia, a hedge fund sales executive at Louis Capital Markets, said “everybody’s getting a little excited” in the wake of the Chinese central bank’s action, overnight gains on Wall Street and the IMF’s plan to raise an additional $500 billion in lending resources. Read more about IMF plan.
“So the mood is good and the momentum still seems to be with the markets to go up. People have been chasing laggards like Japan [equities] in the last two days, so we have seen some major out-performance,” Hsia said.
In Asia next week, Chinese markets are closed the whole week, while Hong Kong bourses are shut from Monday to Wednesday for the Lunar New Year holidays. Taiwan’s markets, which were closed on Thursday, will now only reopen on Jan. 30.
Shares of chip makers marched higher in Asia after the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index /zigman2/quotes/210598361/realtime SOX +2.61% rallied 5% in the U.S. overnight, helped in part by robust earnings for Linear Technology Corp. and Micron Technology Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205710729/composite MU +3.88% Read more on U.S. tech-stock action Wednesday.
In Seoul, that helped lift shares of Hynix Semiconductor Inc. by 4.2%, while Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF 0.00% gained 4.1% despite news it faced a patent suit from Eastman Kodak Co. . Read more on Kodak suit against Samsung.
Daniel Cho, head of research at Daishin Securities, said foreign investors were expected to “preemptively buy stocks in anticipation of China’s easing” of monetary policy. The expected policy relaxation and liquidity injections by the European Central bank were likely to aid further stock gains in South Korea during the first quarter, Cho added.
In Tokyo, Elpida Memory Inc. — which is reportedly in talks for a tie-up with Micron — gained 5.3%, while Kyocera Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204880749/delayed JP:6971 +0.89% /zigman2/quotes/205094593/delayed KYOCF +0.75% advanced 1.9%.
Real-estate shares were among the leaders in Hong Kong as well as Shanghai, with some major names extending gains from Wednesday’s session after weak Chinese housing data earlier in the week raised expectations for support from the central bank. See report on recent Chinese housing data.
Shares of China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205731176/delayed HK:688 -1.42% /zigman2/quotes/210412581/delayed CAOVF +1.14% climbed 2.8% in Hong Kong and Poly Real Estate Group Co. /zigman2/quotes/201864015/delayed CN:600048 +1.03% jumped 5.4% in Shanghai.
Among Hong Kong developers, Hang Lung Properties Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200230831/delayed HK:101 -0.66% /zigman2/quotes/204283712/delayed HLPPF -4.95% soared 9.7% after reporting a 29% increase in its underlying profit for the six months to Dec. 31.
Many financial firms also saw strong gains in Asia after better-than-expected quarterly results from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209237603/composite GS +1.77% (Read more on Goldman Sachs earnings), and as reports suggested a positive outcome for talks between the Greek government and private bondholders to avoid a hard default.
In Japan, Nomura Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206251373/delayed JP:8604 +1.20% /zigman2/quotes/201003564/delayed NRSCF +2.16% /zigman2/quotes/207276383/composite NMR 0.00% added 4.3% and Daiwa Securities Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201391978/delayed JP:8601 +0.21% /zigman2/quotes/206649614/delayed DSECF +14.86% rose 4.9%, while in Sydney, Macquarie Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/206727308/delayed AU:MQG +0.66% /zigman2/quotes/204353811/delayed MCQEF +2.94% made a 2.1% gain.
In Hong Kong, shares of China Construction Bank Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208974133/delayed HK:939 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/209484779/delayed CICHF +2.58% /zigman2/quotes/208058581/delayed CN:601939 +0.75% saw a 2.5% improvement, while insurer AIA Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203565558/delayed HK:1299 -0.19% /zigman2/quotes/201974019/delayed AAIGF -0.59% climbed 3.4%.
Still, IG Markets institutional dealer Chris Weston said Greece remains a serious event risk for global equities. “I don’t believe the market really has priced in a Greek default as some people say,” he said.
Select commodity firms also enjoyed a solid advance, with Weston citing their role as a proxy for global growth expectations.
In Sydney, Alumina Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/210515632/delayed AU:AWC +3.27% /zigman2/quotes/201398507/delayed AWCMF +3.09% rose 1.6%, while uranium miner Paladin Energy Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203269866/delayed AU:PDN 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/202157125/delayed PALAF -3.72% surged 5.9%.
In Hong Kong, Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202960704/delayed HK:2600 +0.88% /zigman2/quotes/208051344/composite ACH +0.27% /zigman2/quotes/210453246/delayed CN:601600 +1.57% jumped 5.8% and gold producer Zijin Mining Group Co. /zigman2/quotes/204517000/delayed HK:2899 -1.79% /zigman2/quotes/209836076/delayed ZIJMF +5.00% gained 0.9%.