Most Asian markets pulled higher Thursday, with Japanese auto firms standing out as a weakened yen spurred the nation’s exporters, while regional energy shares were hit by a sharp fall in oil prices.
The broad advance came as U.S. stock index futures climbed after the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican party challenger Mitt Romney. Take the poll on who won the debate.
IG Markets strategist Cameron Peacock said U.S. futures edged higher during Asian trading hours, with Romney “surprisingly putting in a very strong performance.”
“It seems the slightest improvement in Romney’s numbers or the faintest whiff of a Republican victory is enough to push U.S. equity futures higher,” he said.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average rose 0.9% to 8,824.59, snapping a four-session losing streak.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.3% to 4,452.40 to extend its string of positive finishes to six trading days and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended up 0.1% at 20,907.95.
South Korea’s Kospi declined 0.2% to 1,992.68, while Taiwan’s Taiex ended fractionally lower at 7,682.34.
Markets on the Chinese mainland remain closed for the Golden Week holidays until next Monday.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 56 points to 13,482 by late afternoon in Hong Kong.
“I think it had a good impact on Hong Kong and Asian markets as a whole,” said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities, referring to the U.S. presidential debate.
Global investors were inclined to take a positive view on markets following recent European Central Bank and Federal Reserve moves to help economic growth, Yip said, although he added that uncertainly related to the U.S. fiscal cliff and the Chinese economy hasn’t gone away.
A drop in the Japanese yen against the U.S. dollar aided shares of exporters, with auto firms doing particularly well.
Toyota Motor Corp. climbed 3%, Honda Motor Co. jumped 3.2%, and Nissan Motor Co. soared 5.1%.
The U.S. dollar was fetching ¥78.56 Thursday afternoon in Hong Kong, compared with ¥78.53 late Wednesday in North America, where it was changing hands for ¥78.13 Tuesday. The dollar’s gains followed data showing an improvement in U.S. private-sector hiring and services-sector activity.
“The better U.S. data has helped guide U.S. dollar/Japanese yen higher but also some of the recent changes in the Japanese government imply that there could be more aggressive easing policies, which could weaken the yen,” said Paul Mackel, head of Asia currency research at HSBC.
The Japanese prime minister undertook a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle on Monday, and newly appointed cabinet ministers have recently been stepping up calls for more monetary action to curb the yen’s strength, ahead of the Bank of Japan’s policy decision Friday.
A Nikkei newspaper report Thursday said Economic Policy Minister Seiji Maehara, who has repeatedly called for more monetary easing, will attend the BOJ meeting on Friday.
Canon Inc. dropped 2.2%, however, after Credit Suisse cut its price target and profit forecast.
Macau casino stocks fell in afternoon trade in Hong Kong after data showed September gambling revenue in the former Portuguese territory rose 12.3% from a year earlier, weaker than some analyst expectations for growth as high as 20%.
Shares of Sands China Ltd. and fellow casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. both ended down 3.5%.
In other Hong Kong action, top Hang Seng Index component HSBC Holdings PLC tacked on 1.8%.
Australian banks also rose, meanwhile, extending gains after an interest-rate cut from the Reserve Bank of Australia earlier this week.
Westpac Banking Corp. rose 1.6%, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 1%.
Energy sector shares in the region were notably lower during the session after crude-oil futures skidded by around 4% Wednesday.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd. dropped 1% in Sydney and Inpex Corp. fell 1.6% in Tokyo.
In Hong Kong, Cnooc Ltd. and PetroChina Co. shed 1.6% and 0.6%, respectively, while lubricant oil producer Michang Oil Industry Co. fell 0.6% in Seoul.