SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets were mostly higher on Friday as investors cheered a more restrained Federal Reserve and U.S.-China trade talks.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index advanced 1 percent to 20,359.70 and South Korea’s Kospi was 0.6 percent higher at 2,075.57. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.4 percent to 26,633.47. The Shanghai Composite index was up 0.6 percent at 2,550.35. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 lost 0.4 percent to 5,774.60. Shares rose Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia but fell in the Philippines.
WALL STREET: U.S. stocks bounced back from a rocky start on Thursday, recording their fifth straight gain. Macy’s suffered its biggest loss of all time, putting a drag on retailers. But industrial companies rallied after U.S. negotiators said China had agreed to buy more energy and agricultural products and manufactured goods. The S&P 500 index gained 0.5 percent to 2,596.64. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.5 percent to 24,001.92 and the Nasdaq composite was up 0.4 percent at 6,986.07. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks climbed 0.5 percent to 1,445.43.
POWELL SPEECH: In a speech on Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell stressed that the central bank has the “ability to be patient” with its plans to gradually raise interest rates. He echoed the tone of Fed officials who were present at a meeting last month. Minutes of the meeting, which were released a day earlier, showed the officials believed that the central bank could afford to be “patient” with rate hikes, given volatile stock markets, trade tensions and shaky global growth. A market-sensitive Fed is reassuring to investors who fear its tightening policies would send the U.S. economy into recession.
US-CHINA TALKS: Talks between American and Chinese negotiators may have ended without significant breakthroughs, but traders are choosing to focus on the positives. The fact that talks lasted a day longer than planned, the release of conciliatory statements from both sides and the possibility of higher-level talks in the near future are fueling gains in Asia.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “The sentiment pendulum has swung from U.S. recession fears to optimism for a dovish Fed and positive US-China trade talks. The return of risk appetite, in turn, has pressured the U.S dollar lower,” DBS Group Research strategists Philip Wee and Eugene Leow said in a commentary.
CHINESE INFLATION: On Thursday, China released consumer and producer inflation figures that missed the mark. It said consumer prices rose by 1.9 percent in December from a year earlier, down from 2.2 percent in November. This was the slowest pace of growth in six months. Producer prices inched up 0.9 percent from a year ago, far from November’s 2.7 percent rise. Slowing inflation is not a good sign, as it raises questions about the health of the world’s second largest economy.
ENERGY: Oil prices eased after rallying for the ninth consecutive day. Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 1 cent to .58 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract is has surged by 23.7 percent since Dec. 24. It added another 23 cents to .59 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 11 cents to .57 per barrel. It gained 24 cents to .68 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar eased to 108.38 yen from 108.43 yen late Thursday. The euro rose to .1524 from .1501.