Asia Stocks Rally on Bernanke Comments; Nikkei at 1-Year High

Asian stock markets rallied on Tuesday, tracking strong overnight gains from Wall Street made on the back of dovish comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

During late Asian trade, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped 1.5%, Australia’s ASX/200 Index rose 0.9%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index surged 2.4%.

Just as the global equity rally looked to have run out of steam, comments from Fed Chief Bernanke reinforced the view that further easing from the central bank may be possible.
In a speech at the National Association for Business Economics Monday, Bernanke said that further monetary accommodation is needed to bring about big gains in the U.S. jobs market, which he described as “far from normal,” despite a recent improvement.

In Japan, the Nikkei scored its biggest one-day gain in six months, rising in the final two seconds of the trading session above the closing price on March 11, 2011, the day of the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck the country and triggered a nuclear crisis.

Shares in the financial sector performed strongly, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group jumping 4.25%, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group gaining 2.45% and Mizuho Financial Group adding 2.85%.

Shares in Nomura Holdings, which have lost nearly 12% in the week leading up to Tuesday’s session amid reports the firm was linked to an insider trading scandal, recouped some losses, rising 4.1%.

A weaker yen continued to boost exporters. Consumer electronics giant Sony climbed 3.1%, while automakers Honda and Toyota gained 3.5% and 3.6% respectively.

Shares of Sumitomo Metal Mining surged 5.85% after the company said the Pogo gold mine in Alaska, of which it owns 85%, has found a gold deposit estimated at 40 metric tons.

Elsewhere, shares in Hong Kong were boosted by strong gains in raw material producers, which tracked metal prices higher. Jiangxi Copper Company saw shares climb 3.55%, Zijin Mining Group shares rose 2.9%, while Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, jumped 4.1%.

Property developers were higher for a second day. Following the weekend election of Chun-ying Leung as the next chief executive of Hong Kong, Citigroup said in a report, “We reiterate our view that general property prices will not fall substantially on the simple theme of Leung taking office.”

Sino Land shares jumped 5.5%, Sun Hung Kai Properties rose 3.6%, while real estate development firm New World Development rallied 4.85%.

Financials were also higher, with index heavyweight HSBC Holdings up 2.1% and China Construction Bank shares climbing 2.2%.

Insurance giant China Life rose 3.1%, mostly on short-covering after reporting a 45.5% drop in 2011 profit.

Meanwhile, gains in mining heavyweights buoyed shares in Australia. Gold producer Newcrest Mining rose 1.5%, while BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto added 0.7% and 0.55% respectively.

A strong performance from retailers also contributed to gains, with department store operator Myer Holdings rising 2.8%, electronics chain JB Hi-Fi gaining 1.9% and surfwear chain Billabong jumping 5.2%.

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