Asia Stocks Set for New Record High as Japan Reopens to Catch Up

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  • Industrial, energy, health care companies lead rally
  • Hong Kong benchmark advances for eighth day in a row

Asian shares rose for a third day, with Japanese stocks leading gains on the country’s first trading day of 2018, after U.S. equities climbed to a new record.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 1.2 percent to 177.98 as of 4:34 p.m. in Hong Kong, heading for another all-time high. Japan’s Topix jumped 2.6 percent and the Nikkei 225 added 3.3 percent for their biggest gains in more than a year. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.8 percent, the region’s only major national benchmark to decline, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose for an eighth day.

Shares rose after minutes of last month’s Federal Reserve meeting showed policy makers continue to back a “gradual approach” to raising interest rates. JPMorgan Chase & Co. economists on Wednesday raised their 2018 growth forecast for China to 6.7 percent from 6.5 percent, citing the “upbeat external outlook.”

“Optimism is growing for 2018 economic growth in U.S. and China,” said Stanley Chik, research director at Bright Smart Securities in Hong Kong. “Latest Fed minutes came in line with market expectations of gradual rate hikes.”

Industrial, health care and energy sub-gauges of the Asian benchmark each gained at least 1 percent. Sime Darby Berhad surged 10 percent in Malaysia for its highest close in nearly 10 years. China Oilfield Services Ltd. jumped 11 percent as crude extended gains from a three-year high.

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