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Shares in Asia tracked Wall Street on Wednesday after US stocks reached record highs on a positive outlook for economic growth and as investors expect further clues on rates from the Federal Reserve released today.
The S&P 500 closed up 0.6 per cent to a record high on Tuesday at 2.365. The US stock benchmark has now gone 90 days without closing lower by more than 1 per cent as the Vix, a popular measure of market volatility, hovers just below 12 and around historically low levels.
A recent rally on expectations for US President Donald Trump to invest in infrastructure, tweak financial regulations and corporate taxes has been sustained by positive earnings from US companies. On Tuesday Walmart rose on stronger-than-expected online sales.
The US dollar index eased 0.1 per cent to 101.32 on Wednesday, but jumped 0.4 per cent yesterday on hawkish comments from Federal Reserve officials suggesting a March rate hike.
Currencies in Asia rose against the dollar on Wednesday with the Japanese yen up 0.2 per cent at ¥113.47 per dollar while the South Korean won rose 0.6 per cent to Won1,139.15 per dollar. The Australian dollar was up 0.2 per cent at $0.7692 despite the release of economic data showing wage growth stagnating.
A stronger yen saw Japan’s Topix fall 0.1 per cent, although Rakuten’s shares popped by as much as 12 per cent after the company said it would buy back 120m of its shares for as much as ¥100bn ($880m). Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.1 per cent with the consumer staples sector gaining as shares in Woolworths rose 3 per cent after the company announced earnings and improved supermarket sales growth.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.85 per cent as the city’s 2016 gross domestic product grew at 1.9 per year on year cent above expectations of 1.7 per cent growth. China’s Shanghai Composite was up 0.1 per cent.
Oil prices extended Tuesday’s gains on hopes Opec was sticking to its agreed production cuts, with Brent Crude up 0.3 per cent at $56.81 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate up 0.2 per cent at $54.46 a barrel.