By Associated Press and Marketwatch
Shares rose in Asia on Thursday after a survey of Chinese manufacturers showed factory activity improved slightly in December.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +1.19% surged 1.2% and the Hang Seng /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.22% in Hong Kong also gained 1.2%. South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.49% added 0.2%, while Australia’s S&P ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.61% edged 0.1% higher. The Shanghai Composite index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.28% climbed 0.6% while the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598015/delayed CN:399106 +0.50% rose fractionally. Shares were higher in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.
Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -0.17% said it posted a near-30% drop in operating profit for the last quarter after seeing slowing global demand for its memory chips and smartphones. It still finished the year with record earnings, but Samsung said it expects its overall annual earnings to decline this year because of the sluggish semiconductor market, although it sees its sales of memory chips and organic light-emitting diode panels used in mobile devices rebounding in the second half.
Meanwhile, in Japan, shares of electronics maker TDK /zigman2/quotes/208948266/delayed JP:6762 +2.56% and IT services company NEC /zigman2/quotes/205173342/delayed JP:6701 +0.63% surged, as did shipping line Mitsui OSK /zigman2/quotes/204152844/delayed JP:9104 +2.25% . Apple supplier Sunny Optical /zigman2/quotes/206687505/delayed HK:2382 +0.54% rose in Hong Kong, along with casino operator Galaxy Entertainment /zigman2/quotes/202884203/delayed HK:27 -0.43% . Australian energy companies Santos /zigman2/quotes/207349564/delayed AU:STO -0.06% and Woodside Petroleum /zigman2/quotes/203437212/delayed AU:WPL +0.98% rose, as did Beach Energy /zigman2/quotes/200513631/delayed AU:BPT +0.93% , which raised its fiscal-year production outlook.
U.S. stocks powered higher Wednesday after the Federal Reserve signaled it could hold off on interest rate increases in the coming months, citing muted inflation. The benchmark S&P 500 index is now track to end January with its biggest monthly gain in more than three years, and the gains pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 25,000 points for the first time since early December. The S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.47% rose 1.6% to 2,681.05. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.40% gained 1.8% to 25,014.86. The Nasdaq composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.87% climbed 2.2% to 7,183.08.
An official measure of China’s manufacturing improved in January but forecasters said economic activity remains sluggish as Chinese leaders try to resolve a tariff battle with Washington. The purchasing managers’ index issued Thursday by the government statistics agency and an industry group rose 0.1 points on a 100-point scale but stayed below a level that shows activity expanding. Measures for employment and domestic demand weakened. China’s economic growth sank to a three-decade low in 2018 after activity decelerated in the final quarter of the year.
Trade talks opened Wednesday between the U.S. and China and will loom over the market for the remainder of the week. The high-level talks are aimed at settling a months’ long trade war that has raised fears of slower economic growth. Industrial and technology companies have warned about slowing sales because of the trade impasse.
With pressures on the U.S. economy rising — a global slowdown, a trade war with China, a nervous stock market — the Fed signaled Wednesday that it is in no hurry to resume raising interest rates. And with inflation remaining tame, the rationale to tighten credit has become less compelling. “The situation calls for patience,” Chairman Jerome Powell said at a news conference. “We have the luxury to be patient.”
U.S. crude oil rose 36 cents in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange to $54.59 per barrel. It gained 1.7% to settle at $54.23 per barrel in New York on Wednesday. Brent crude , used to price international oils, added 52 cents to $62.06 per barrel. It had added 0.5% to close at $61.65 per barrel in London.
The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.0826% weakened to 108.86 yen from 109.04 yen on Tuesday.