Asian Shares Edge Higher, Led By Japan

Asian stocks rose broadly on Wednesday, with Japanese markets leading regional gains as the yen plunged on dovish signals from the Bank of Japan.

Fears of a global recession and caution ahead of speeches by four Federal Reserve officials later in the day served to cap regional gains to some extent.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index fluctuated before finishing marginally higher after experts cautioned that a massive spike in covid deaths would likely hit the country following the holiday season.

Data analytics company Airfinity has forecast that China may see nearly a staggering 36,000 deaths a day during Lunar New Year holidays.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.5 percent to 21,678, buoyed largely by major technology stocks as regulatory headwinds ease.

Japanese shares hit a one-month high as the Bank of Japan maintained its ultra-easy policy, surprising markets and sending the yen tumbling.

The central bank maintained interest rates at record-low levels and kept its yield curve tolerance band unchanged, defying market expectations it would overhaul its policy in the wake of rising inflationary pressures.

The Nikkei 225 Index jumped 2.5 percent to 26,791.12, marking its highest close since December 19 and posting its biggest daily gain since November 11. The broader Topix ended 1.7 percent higher at 1,934.93.

Chip-making equipment maker Tokyo Electron gained 1.7 percent and Uniqlo brand owner Fast Retailing rallied 2.7 percent.

Investors shrugged off data showing that Japan’s core machinery orders fell more than expected in November.

Seoul stocks fell for a second day running as investors avoided making big bets ahead of the earnings season. The Kospi dropped 0.5 percent to 2,368.32, dragged down by auto and steel stocks. Hyundai Mobis lost 3 percent and Posco Holdings gave up 1.8 percent.

Australian markets ended slightly higher to reach their highest level in 8-1/2 months, with tech and healthcare stocks pacing the gainers. Gold miners underperformed as bullion prices slipped on dollar strength.

Fuel retailer Ampol jumped 2.2 percent after the company reported higher refining margins in the December quarter.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index finished marginally higher at 7,393.40, while the broader All Ordinaries Index edged up 0.2 percent to settle at 7,609.50.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 0.3 percent to 11,920.41.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as investors reacted to underwhelming GDP data from China, contrasting fourth-quarter results from investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and data showing deteriorating manufacturing conditions in the U.S.

The Dow lost 1.1 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.2 percent as traders returned to their desks after a long holiday weekend. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite inched up 0.1 percent.

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