Fed optimism lift Asia stocks

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IOL pic jun4 yellow green market arrows . File photo: Filomena Scalise

Tokyo - Tokyo shares led Asia higher on Thursday, riding on Wall Street's optimism after the US Federal Reserve gave a positive assessment of the economy and committed to retaining accommodative monetary policy.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.6 percent.

Tokyo's Nikkei brushed aside a stronger yen and outperformed the rest of the region, advancing 1.5 percent after hitting a 4-1/2-month high.

“Yesterday's Fed announcements include more than one piece of good news, so that's positive for Japanese market sentiment,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, a strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

“The Fed sees the US economy is on track, while it hinted of low interest rates in the long term.”

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended at a record high on Wednesday after the Fed hinted at a slightly faster pace of interest-rate increases starting next year but suggested rates in the long run would be lower than it had indicated previously.

World markets have been buffeted in recent months by a slowdown in China and an uneven global recovery. Turmoil in Ukraine and Iraq have further undermined sentiment.

The Fed's accommodative policy stance is seen as one of the positives, as rising consumption in the US is expected to help underpin some of Asia's big export-driven economies.

The dollar struggled against its peers, hurt as US Treasury yields fell sharply on the Fed's long-term rates projection and as policymakers showed little discomfort over recent signs of a pick up in consumer prices.

“Hawkish comments by top BOE officials - not just Governor Carney - are encouraging investors to bring forward the beginning of a normalisation of monetary policy and a tightening cycle, no matter how gradual. In contrast, the Federal Reserve stuck to its course, despite the recent pick-up in inflation and the improvement in the labor market,” wrote Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, in a note to clients.

The dollar index, a gauge of the greenback's strength against a basket of key currencies, was down 0.2 percent.

The dollar traded little changed at 101.94 yen after shedding 0.2 percent on Wednesday.

Sterling was steady at $1.6993. The pound rose past $1.70 for the first time since mid-2009 early this week after BoE chief Marc Carney warned markets may be mistaken if they think rates will not rise in 2014. It has since lost some steam after BoE minutes left unclear the timing of the next rate hike.

The euro dipped 0.1 percent to $1.3585, taking a breather following the previous session's 0.35 percent rise.

In commodities, Brent crude hovered near Wednesday's nine-month closing high of $114.26 a barrel hit on persistent worries over oil exports from war-torn Iraq.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange fell 0.4 percent to $6,684.75 a ton, pulling back from a two-week peak of $6,744 hit Wednesday on optimism over the US economy and prospects that China stands ready to support 7.5 percent growth.

Platinum and palladium extended their winning streak, with both trading near one-week highs as a miners' strike in major producer South Africa looked set to continue.

Analysts saw the miners' strike curtailing the rand's strength, which surged 1 percent against the dollar on Wednesday on news the country's current account deficit narrowed to levels last seen in 2012. - Reuters


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