Asian Shares See Relief Rally After U.S. Midterm Vote

Asian stocks ended broadly higher on Thursday after the U.S. midterm elections delivered no big surprises.

While a split Congress is expected to halt any major advances in President Donald Trump’s economic agenda, Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, overcoming historical political headwinds.

Traders looked ahead to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy announcement for new clues as to whether the U.S. central bank will signal a December rate hike.

Chinese stocks fell slightly even as data showed Chinese exports and imports both increased more than expected in October.

China’s exports grew 15.6 percent annually, while economists had forecast an increase of 11.7 percent. Imports surged up 21.4 percent compared to the forecast of 14.7 percent. As a result, the trade surplus came in at $34 billion in the month versus the expected level of $35.1 billion.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dipped 5.71 points or 0.2 percent to 2,635.63, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 80.03 points or 0.3 percent to 26,227.72.

Japanese shares posted strong gains to hit a 2-1/2-week closing high as investors cheered the U.S. midterm election results. The Nikkei 225 Index jumped 401.12 points or 1.8 percent to 22,486.92, and the broader Topix Index soared 1.7 percent to 1,681.25.

Exporters Canon, Honda Motor and Sony rose 1-3 percent. Banks Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial climbed around 2 percent. Toshiba skyrocketed 12.7 percent after it unveiled a new five-year business strategy and announced a share buyback.

In economic news, the value of core machine orders in Japan plunged 18.3 percent sequentially in September, the Cabinet Office said, coming in at 802.2 billion yen. That was well shy of expectations for a decline of 9.0 percent following the 6.8 percent increase in August.

Another report showed that Japan had a current account surplus of 1,821.6 billion yen in September, down 19.3 percent from last year. The trade balance showed a surplus of 323.3 billion yen, shy of expectations for 334.2 billion yen.

Australian markets eked out modest gains, led by healthcare, banking and energy stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 31.30 points or 0.5 percent to 5,928.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended 0.6 percent higher at 6,015.90.

Healthcare stocks led the surge, with CSL, Cochlear and Resmed jumping 1-2 percent. Energy stocks posted modest gains despite oil prices falling to a nearly eight-month low.

News Corp. surged up 4.2 percent after its fiscal first quarter earnings topped forecasts. REA Group, the owner of real estate portal and majority owned by News Corp., soared 8 percent after its first quarter profit rose 23 percent on a 17 percent increase in revenue.

Meanwhile, lender NAB lost 3.6 percent on going ex-dividend, while the other three big banks shot up around 2 percent each after the banking regulator proposed hiking capital requirements.

Mining giant BHP Billiton eased 0.2 percent after it secured exploration blocks in offshore eastern Canada. James Hardie shares slumped 14.7 percent after the building materials group cut its full year forecast range, citing uncertain conditions in its key U.S. market.

South Korean stocks finished notably higher, mirroring strong cues from Wall Street overnight after U.S. President Trump was handed a mixed verdict in the midterm elections. The benchmark Kospi climbed 0.7 percent to 2,092.63, led by tech and pharma stocks. SK Hynix rallied 3 percent and Celltrion advanced 2.1 percent.

New Zealand shares rose after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand kept its official cash rate at a record low of 1.75 percent for the 14th straight meeting, as widely expected. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 41.22 points or 0.5 percent to close at 8,896.01.

Overnight, U.S. stocks moved sharply higher as the results of the highly anticipated midterm elections came largely in line with expectations.

The Dow and the S&P 500 surged up around 2.1 percent to reach their best closing levels in nearly a month, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 2.6 percent.

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