By Kenan Machado
Equity markets in Asia extended their gains on Thursday, taking cues from fresh overnight records set by key U.S. indexes as the earnings season kicks off.
Strong earnings growth has supported major stock indexes this year, and some analysts said they expect third-quarter results to continue to outperform expectations. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve signaled its confidence that the U.S. economy was strong enough to support further rate increases.
“The Fed minutes indicated a positive outlook on the U.S. economy. That augurs well for global growth,” said Alex Wijaya, head of Southeast Asia for Axicorp Financial Services.
Minutes from the Fed’s latest policy meeting, released Wednesday, showed most officials expect the central bank to raise short-term interest rates again this year. That helped alleviate signs of rate uncertainty in the market, said Wijaya.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.34% rose 0.5%, after closing at a 21-year high on Wednesday. The market’s strength came despite overnight appreciation in the yen, which usually weighs on export-related stocks.
The U.S. dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561418/realtime/sampled JPYUSD +0.4432% last bought ¥112.38, compared with ¥112.48 yen at the end of Wednesday trade in New York.
Technology shares led gains in Japan, with SoftBank /zigman2/quotes/207303954/delayed JP:9984 +0.55% rising 3.7% and Line adding 1.3%. But energy stocks weakened, with Inpex /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 -1.25% falling 1.8% and Japan Petroleum /zigman2/quotes/201212147/delayed JP:1662 -3.37% shedding 0.8% following a drop in oil prices after data from the American Petroleum Institute showed U.S. crude inventories rose last week.
Although the API report showed U.S. oil inventories rose last week, analysts polled in a Wall Street Journal survey said they expect data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration due later Thursday to show a decline.
Oil futures in Asia were down about 0.6% in morning trade.
Elsewhere in the region, Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.04% added 0.2% to Wednesday’s record close, while Singapore’s Straits Times Index /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI +0.52% was up 0.6% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.0013% rose 0.2%.
Technology stocks also helped Taiwan’s Taiex rise 0.4% in early trade, with key Apple suppliers leading gains. Largan Precision /zigman2/quotes/210444196/delayed TW:3008 -0.98% was up 1.7%, while Hon Hai /zigman2/quotes/207256514/delayed TW:2317 -0.46% rose 0.9% and Taiwan Semiconductor /zigman2/quotes/207385621/delayed TW:2330 +0.67% added 1.5%.
The Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -0.34% bucked broad gains the region, falling 0.2% as traders await new policy initiatives from the Communist Party Congress, which starts next week.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.42% was slightly lower in morning trade, reversing early gains and adding to Wednesday’s declines.