Asian stocks rise as Fed taper fears wane
HONG KONG—Asian markets made modest gains Monday as speculation eased over whether the US Federal Reserve will begin an early tapering of its massive stimulus program.
Emerging-market currencies suffered a torrid few days of trading last week as dealers bet on an end to the Fed’s $85-billion-a-month monetary easing.
But figures showing a slump in US housing market sales on Friday allayed fears of an early stimulus rollback and led to rallies in Europe and the United States.
The feel-good factor carried on into the start of the new week’s trade in Asia, with Sydney closing up 0.23 percent, or 12.0 points, at 5,135.4 and Seoul gaining 0.95 percent, or 17.70 points, to 1,887.86.
In Shanghai, Chinese shares jumped 1.90 percent, or 39.01 points, to 2,096.47 boosted by gains in financial stocks and enthusiasm for plans approved last week to create a free-trade zone in the city. Hong Kong closed 0.65 percent, or 141.81 points, higher at 22,005.32.
Tokyo stocks opened 0.43 percent higher but ended down 0.18 percent, or 24.27 points, at 13,636.28. Dealers said the early gains were eroded by profit-taking.
In emerging markets, where currencies tumbled last week over concerns that the stimulus-inspired investment splurges in their regions would end, trade was less positive.
Jakarta ended down 1.18 percent, or 49.16 points, at 4,120.67 while Kuala Lumpur also lost 0.08 percent, or 1.42 points, to close at 1,722.49.
Mumbai closed up 0.21 percent, or 38.69 points, to 18,558.13, its third straight day of gains.
There was some much-needed respite for emerging-market currencies. The Indian rupee, which tumbled to a record low of 65.56 to the dollar last week, fetched 64.14 to the dollar in Tokyo afternoon trade against 64.45 Friday afternoon.
The Indonesian rupiah edged up to 10,770 from 10,963.
In India, however, analysts said tough times were still ahead for the ailing national currency.
“The rupee is still in a bearish phase and the demand for dollars is not down,” said Param Sarma, chief executive with NSP Forex.
Expectations of an end to the US stimulus program have seen foreigners in recent months repatriate some of the vast sums that have poured into emerging economies. The pullout has hit currencies and equities.
The dollar was largely unchanged against major currencies. It was at 98.60 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade while the euro bought $1.3382 and 131.91 yen.
The market rises in Asia echoed modest gains on Wall Street and in Europe at the end of last week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.31 percent while London closed 0.70 percent higher. Frankfurt added 0.23 percent and Paris rose 0.25 percent.
The positive trading was also helped by upbeat manufacturing data from Europe, the United States and China.
But analysts warned that the lack of economic pointers, apart from ongoing speculation over what the Fed might do, would make trade unpredictable in the coming days.
“Without many fundamental trading incentives, the market remains in a churning process, bouncing between bargain-buying and profit-taking,” said Tachibana Securities market adviser Kenichi Hirano.
In oil markets New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in October, rose 47 cents to $106.89 in afternoon trade. Brent North Sea crude for October added 20 cents to $111.23.
Gold fetched $1,394.40 at 1038 GMT, down slightly from $1,397.10 in late Friday trade.
In other markets:
– Bangkok fell 0.67 percent, or 8.95 points, to 1,329.18.
Coal producer Banpu lost 1.81 percent to 272 baht, while oil company PTT dropped 0.93 percent to 318 baht.
– Wellington rose 0.47 percent, or 21.46 points, to 4,545.67.
Fletcher Building was up 0.58 percent at NZ$8.65, Telecom Corp lifted 1.12 percent to NZ$2.26 and Choris was down 1.01 percent to NZ$2.94.
– Taipei closed up 0.28 percent, or 21.66 points, at 7894.97.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was 0.21 percent lower at Tw$96.8 while Hon Hai Precision gained 0.99 percent to Tw$81.3.
– Singapore fell 0.14 percent, or 4.44 points, to close at 3,084.41.
Singapore Airlines finished 0.31 percent higher at Sg$9.78 and container shipping firm Neptune Orient Lines added 0.46 percent to settle at Sg$1.09.
– Manila was closed for a public holiday.—Jerome Taylor