By Kenan Machado
Asian equity markets were broadly higher on Tuesday, with stocks in Hong Kong and Japan leading gains to track overnight strength on Wall Street, thanks to upbeat U.S. data.
The Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.42% opened the fourth quarter with a 1.6% gain, in part catching up to the region’s gains on Monday, when the city’s stock exchange was shut for a holiday. Markets in China and South Korea are closed for the entire week.
Key Hong Kong heavyweights surged, led by a 7.3% rise in car maker Geely /zigman2/quotes/200716015/delayed HK:175 +2.30% , following Morgan Stanley’s rating upgrade to overweight. Tech giant Tencent /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 +0.79% added 2.2%, while lender HSBC /zigman2/quotes/202687335/delayed HK:5 0.00% was up 1%.
Gains in Hong Kong come after all major U.S. stock indexes notched fresh records on Monday, as data helped bolster optimism about the economy.
Manufacturing activity in the U.S. reached a 13-year high in September, with the Institute for Supply Management’s reading on Monday exceeding economist expectations. But some analysts advise investors to be cautious.
“With the market pricing in so much optimism we are vigilantly watching U.S. data, as the recurring weakness could see it coming down like dominoes,” said Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers in Australia.
In Japan, the Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.34% was up 0.8%, thanks to overnight gains in the dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561418/realtime/sampled JPYUSD +0.4432% , which bought ¥113.07 in morning trade Tuesday, compared with ¥112.76 in late New York trade.
That helped exporter stocks, which benefit from a weaker yen. Nissan Motor /zigman2/quotes/208298710/delayed JP:7201 -1.39% was up 1.1%, while Toyota /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 0.00% , Mazda /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 -0.47% and Honda /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 +0.03% were each up roughly 0.6%.
Major oil companies Inpex Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 -1.25% and Japan Petroleum /zigman2/quotes/201212147/delayed JP:1662 -3.37% were down about 2% each, following an overnight pullback in oil prices.
Meanwhile, the stronger dollar weighed on equities in Australia, with the S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.0013% down 0.3% amid a decline in commodity producers and weakness in Australian banking stocks. BHP Billiton /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP -2.16% was down 0.2% and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia /zigman2/quotes/200638713/delayed AU:CBA -0.07% was off 0.7%.
Nonetheless, trading was muted ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate decision due later Tuesday. Though the central bank is widely expected to stand pat on rates, investors are watching for comments from RBA Gov. Philip Lowe on the nation’s economic health.
Among other Asian markets, Taiwan’s Taiex was up 0.2%, while Malaysia’s benchmark index /zigman2/quotes/210598052/delayed MY:FBMKLCI -0.22% rose 0.2%, after closing lower for the last 10 trading sessions. In Singapore, the Straits Times Index /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI +0.52% was off 0.2%, while the New Zealand stock benchmark /zigman2/quotes/211587880/delayed NZ:NZ50GR -0.25% was down 0.1%.
In currencies, the U.S. dollar built on its overnight gains in Asian trade with the WSJ Dollar Index, a broader measure of the currency, trading up 0.2%. The index had closed up 0.5% in New York trade at its highest closing value in more than two months.
Though the upbeat U.S. manufacturing data “does square off with a stronger global recovery,” it could prompt the Federal Reserve to raise rates faster, cautioned Vishnu Varathan, an analyst at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.
That could send the greenback and U.S. Treasury yields higher, prompting a “sell off in higher yielding Asian assets,” he said.