AFP – Asian markets started the new decade on the front foot, with most rallying out of the blocks Thursday on lingering trade optimism, while China’s central bank announced fresh stimulus for the country’s stuttering economy.
The broad advances come as investors remain upbeat about the global outlook after Washington and Beijing eventually reached a trade agreement to ease tensions between the two, while Brexit uncertainty has essentially been removed.
However, geopolitical worries resurfaced following a warning from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that moratoriums on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests had ended, with talks with the US going nowhere.
Shanghai and Hong Kong led gains after the People’s Bank of China said it would lower the amount of cash lenders must keep in reserve, freeing up more than $100 billion for loans to small businesses.
The move comes as leaders try to kickstart growth in the world’s number two economy, which is running at its weakest for almost three decades.
“We expect the PBoC to continue to ease policy through 2020, trying to ensure growth remains around that six percent target,” Stephen Halmarick at Commonwealth Bank of Australia told Bloomberg TV.
“Easier monetary policy across Asia and the Pacific is a theme for this year as well.”
Shanghai jumped 1.3 percent and Hong Kong added one percent, while Sydney gained 0.2 percent and Singapore put on 0.3 percent. Taipei and Jakarta also rose. Tokyo remains closed for the rest of the week.
Dealers were also being supported by relief after Donald Trump said the mini China-US trade deal will be signed off in Washington on January 15, and he will later travel to Beijing for the next phase of talks.
The signing off will smooth concerns that the pact could suffer a last-minute collapse, which has niggled some traders.
Seoul was down 0.8 percent after Kim declared a self-imposed moratorium was no longer needed, raising the possibility that the North could soon resume missile launches or nuclear tests.
He added that “the world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future”, referring to the country by its official name.
The announcement came after its end-of-year deadline for sanctions relief from the United States.
Lingering optimism continued to support oil prices, with signs of a pick-up in the global economy boosting hopes for demand.
– Key figures around 0230 GMT –
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.0 percent at 28,477.24
Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.3 percent at 3,088.22
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: Closed for a public holiday
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3245 from $1.3248 at 2200 GMT
Euro/pound: UP at 84.70 pence from 84.65 pence
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1221 from $1.1214
Dollar/yen: UP at 108.67 from 108.66 yen
Brent Crude: UP 35 cents at $66.35 per barrel (new contract)
West Texas Intermediate: UP 32 cents at $61.38 per barrel
New York – Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 28,538.24 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.6 percent at 7,542.44 (close)