BANGKOK – Shares rose in Asia on Friday after an advance on Wall Street led by the latest rally in technology companies.
Chinese benchmarks rose on reports the government is planning new measures to support the ailing property sector, which has dragged on growth over the past several years.
The relaxation of some of the country’s “zero-COVID” rules is also boosting hopes for the economy will gain momentum, though experts say it will take months for tourism and other business to recover from the disruptions of the pandemic.
“Asian stocks are a bit higher, but full-out exuberance has been tempered by rising COVID cases and skepticism of the force of reopening economic tailwind that the current level of Asian risk assets implies," Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.
While outside experts had increasingly criticized China’s containment policy, which sought to isolate every case, as unsustainable, they have also warned that the country will now face a challenging first wave, as the loosened measures will no doubt fuel an increase of cases.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.9% to 19,810.42. The Shanghai Composite index climbed 0.3% to 3,205.62.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index gained 1.2% to 27,901.01 and the Kospi in Seoul rose 0.8% to 2,389.04. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 picked up 0.5% to 7,213.20.
On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 0.8% to 3,963.51, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite closed 1.1% higher, at 11,082. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.5% to 33,781.48.
Small company stocks gained ground. The Russell 2000 index added 0.6% to 1,818.29.
Tech stocks powered much of the rally, along with health care companies and retailers. Chipmaker Nvidia climbed 6.5%, Pfizer rose 3.1% and Nike gained 2.8%.
Bond yields mostly rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which helps set mortgage rates, increased to 3.49% from 3.42% late Wednesday.
Major indexes are all in the red for the week and have been swinging between big monthly gains and losses throughout the year. Investors’ worries about inflation, rising interest rates and recession risks have made for a volatile market. That has also left Wall Street focused on data points on the economy, especially those regarding inflation.
Activision Blizzard lost 1.5% after the Federal Trade Commission said it is suing to block Microsoft’s planned $69 billion takeover of the video game company, saying it could suppress competitors to its Xbox game consoles and its growing games subscription business. Microsoft rose 1.2%.
On Thursday, the U.S. reported slightly more Americans filed for jobless claims last week, but not as many as economists had forecast. The labor market remains one of the strongest pockets of the economy, which has been stifled under the weight of stubbornly hot inflation and rising interest rates.
Low unemployment is good for the broader economy but makes it more difficult for the Federal Reserve to tame inflation. The central bank has been raising interest rates to curb borrowing and spending in order to cool stubbornly hot inflation. Its benchmark interest rate sits at 3.75% to 4%, the highest in 15 years.
The Fed will meet next week and is expected to raise its benchmark interest rate by a half-percentage point.
Resilient consumer spending, which is partly tied to strong employment, has made the fight against inflation more difficult but has been keeping the economy strong enough to avoid recession, analysts say. It is also increasing the chances that the Fed will go too far in raising interest rates.
Wall Street will get more insight into how consumers feel about inflation and the economy on Friday when the University of Michigan releases its consumer sentiment survey for December. Investors will also get an update on how inflation is impacting businesses when the government releases its latest monthly report on wholesale prices Friday.
In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 52 cents to $71.98 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It settled 0.8% lower at $71.46 per barrel.
Brent crude added 50 cents to $76.65 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar slipped to 136.02 Japanese yen from 136.69 yen. The euro rose to $1.0578 from $1.0556.