Asian stocks rise after Fed’s Powell gives upbeat comments; Japan leads advance

Asian stocks rose on Wednesday, tracking gains seen on Wall Street amid earnings season news and following upbeat remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell during his congressional testimony.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.94 percent, adding to three prior consecutive sessions of gains and leading gains in the region.

Exporters rose as the yen remained weak, with automakers tacking on 1.45 percent. Also contributing to the morning’s sharp gains were oil and coal sector shares. The Topix oil and coal products subindex jumped 2.12 percent, recovering after tanking earlier this week on the drop in oil prices.

Over in Seoul, gains on the Kospi, which traded higher by 0.29 percent, were driven by the significant moves higher in tech stocks. Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics rose 1.85 percent and SK Hynix jumped 1.24 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index edged up by 0.26 percent as heavily weighted financials and information technology stocks edged higher. Still, overall gains were capped by declines in energy, with CNOOC down 1.59 percent in the morning.

China stocks were mostly steady, with the Shanghai composite tacking on 0.19 percent and the Shenzhen composite inching lower by 0.04 percent.

Elsewhere, the S&P/ASX 200 added 0.79 percent, with health care and materials among the top-performing sectors in morning trade. Mining major BHP popped 3.23 percent after reporting record full-year iron ore production.

MSCI’s index of shares in Asia Pacific outside of Japan rose 0.41 percent in morning trade.

Gains in Asia came after the Fed’s Powell gave a positive assessment of the U.S. economy during his semi-annual congressional testimony on Tuesday, indicating that gradual interest rate increases were warranted.

Powell also touched on the matter of trade disputes between the U.S. and its trading partners, saying it was “difficult to predict” the implications of those on the economy.

“So the key take away is that trade policy has not yet affected the Fed’s intentions for further gradual hikes. The Fed remains data dependent and the inclusion of the phrase ‘for now’ provides the bank with some flexibility if it needs to alter the interest rate path ahead,” Rodrigo Catril, senior FX strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note.

U.S. stocks rose as earnings season rolled on stateside.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite notched a record high on Tuesday before closing up 0.63 percent to 7,855.12 and outperforming other U.S. indexes, which recorded slighter gains.

In the tech sector, Netflix shares closed down by more than 5 percent after missing subscriber growth projections, after dropping by around 14 percent during the New York session. Of note, shares of Amazon touched an all-time high on a report that reflected robust Prime Day sales.

The dollar held onto overnight gains made following Powell’s comments, with the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, mostly steady at 95.008. Against the yen, the dollar traded at 112.92 at 9:42 a.m. HK/SIN.

Meanwhile, oil prices were slightly softer after U.S. crude inventories grew last week, rather than declined as expected, according to the American Petroleum Institute. U.S. crude futures slipped 0.54 percent to trade at $67.71 per barrel and Brent crude futures edged down by 0.46 percent to $71.83.

In individual stocks, shares of Air China fell 1.5 percent in Shanghai. The decline came after the airline had its flight hours reduced by regulators after an emergency incident, linked to a co-pilot smoking while on board an airplane, occurred last week, Reuters said, citing local state broadcaster China Central Television.

Source: CNBC