Asian shares edge higher, tracking Wall Street rally

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A currency trader passes by the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), left, and the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and South Korean won at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. Asian shares advanced Friday, tracking a rally on Wall Street following reports suggesting the economy and corporate profits may be doing better than feared. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

BEIJING – Asian shares advanced Friday, tracking a rally on Wall Street following reports suggesting the economy and corporate profits may be doing better than feared.

In Tokyo, data showed the core consumer price index was up 4.3%, slightly higher than expected and higher than the Bank of Japan’s target of 2%.

“This seeks to challenge an eventual policy shift for the central bank, although the government’s energy subsidies next month could be tapped on to push back any changes for now,” Yeap Jun Rong, a market analyst at IG, said in a commentary.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose nearly 0.1% to finish at 27,382.56. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3% to 7,493.80. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.6% to 2,484.02. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3% to 22,634.93.

Markets remained closed in Shanghai for the Lunar New Year holidays.

Stocks climbed on Wall Street to their highest level in nearly eight weeks after the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace in the last quarter, ending 2022 with momentum despite higher interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession. That beat economists' forecasts for a 2.3% expansion.

The S&P 500 climbed 1.1% to clinch its highest finish since Dec. 2, at 4,060.43. The Dow climbed 0.6% to 33,949.41, and the Nasdaq composite gained 1.8% to 11,512.41.

More swings may still be ahead, as Wall Street digests a growing torrent of earnings and economic reports. Markets have veered up and down recently as worries about a severe recession and drop-off in profits battle against hopes the economy can manage a soft landing and the Federal Reserve may ease up on interest rates.

Other reports Thursday showed that orders for long-lasting goods from factories strengthened by more than expected in December and fewer workers applied for jobless claims than expected last week.

Strong data suggest the economy can withstand last year’s blizzard of rate hikes by the Fed, plus at least one more expected next week, without crashing to a deep recession. Higher rates intentionally slow the economy by making it more expensive to borrow to buy a home, a car or anything else on credit. They also drag down prices for stocks and other investments.

But a stronger-than-expected economy, particularly in the job market, could push the Fed to keep rates higher for longer to ensure inflation really is crushed.

On the earnings front, reports from some big tech-oriented companies helped build optimism a day after worries flared following forecasts from Microsoft that were widely seen as discouraging.

Tesla jumped 11% after the electric-vehicle maker reported stronger profit for its latest quarter than analysts expected. Seagate Technology rose 10.9% after it reported better revenue and earnings than anticipated.

Steelmaker Nucor was also among the top-performing stocks in the S&P 500, rising 8.4% after beating Wall Street’s profit and revenue forecasts.

Chevron rose 4.9% after it raised its dividend and approved a program to buy back up to $75 billion of its stock. Both moves put cash directly in the pockets of shareholders, which caught criticism from Washington. White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan suggested oil companies instead “use their record profits to increase supply.”

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude rose 33 cents to $81.34 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 14 cents to $81.01 on Thursday.

Brent crude, the international pricing standard, gained 35 cents to $87.82 a barrel in London.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged down to 130.18 Japanese yen from 130.23 yen. The euro cost $1.0873, down from $1.0890.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama