Asian shares mostly higher on Wall Street rally
HONG KONG — Asian shares were mostly higher Wednesday, tracking gains on Wall Street where US stocks closed at their highest level since July amid positive corporate earnings and consumer spending data.
Sydney added 0.93 percent, Tokyo was up 0.22 percent, while Seoul edged down 0.32 percent.
Hong Kong was 0.15 percent higher while mainland Chinese shares dipped into negative territory, slipping 0.16 percent.
Markets and the euro were also buoyed by news that ratings agency Fitch was not planning to strip France of its top triple-A rating for 2012, easing persistent concerns over Europe’s fiscal woes.
“Positive sentiment has washed through global markets over the past 24 hours,” Mike Jones, currency strategist at Bank of New Zealand, said in a note.
On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished 0.56 percent higher at 12,462.47, the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite added 0.97 percent to 2,702.50, while the broader S&P 500 advanced 0.89 percent to 1,292.08.
US aluminium giant Alcoa kicked off the corporate earnings season, saying full-year profit more than doubled in 2011 to $611 million and delivered an upbeat demand outlook, although it also posted a fourth-quarter loss of $191 million on declining revenues.
The rally came after data showed a 9.9 percent surge in US consumer credit in November, the biggest increase in a decade, while credit card spending and loans both rose, adding to hopes the US economy was getting back on track.
Wall Street’s rise was also helped by data that showed China’s trade surplus shrank in 2011, prompting speculation that Beijing will further loosen monetary policy to support growth in the world’s second-biggest economy.
But debt crisis concerns were still tempering market gains, dealers said, as regional leaders hold fresh talks aimed at containing the eurozone’s sovereign debt problems, with a European Central Bank policy meeting set for Thursday.
Markets were also cautious ahead of debt auctions by struggling Spain and Italy, also starting on Thursday.
“The market’s focus is now shifting to Europe’s debt issue again,” Lim Dong-rak, analyst at Hanyang Securities in Seoul, told Dow Jones Newswires.
“Investors are doubtful whether the recent set of encouraging US economic data will continue to improve,” he said.
Fitch also warned Tuesday that eurozone countries have to raise two trillion euros in 2012 with more than half of that accounted for by members of the single currency bloc — such as Spain, Italy, Belgium and Ireland — currently most at risk of a downgrade by Fitch.
Italy was the most worrying of the embattled eurozone countries and could see its credit rating cut this month, the agency said.
Meanwhile, banks’ deposits with the European Central Bank hit a new record high, suggesting tensions in the financial system continue despite unprecedented injections of liquidity.
Banks put 481.9 billion euros ($616.8 billion) on deposit for 24 hours at the ECB overnight Monday, beating the previous day’s record of 463.6 billion euros.
Rising levels of deposits suggest banks are wary of lending to each other, preferring instead to park funds at the ECB, and stoking concerns of a credit crunch.
On currency markets, The euro edged down to $1.2744 and 98.01 yen in Tokyo morning trade from $1.2775 and 98.15 yen in New York late Tuesday. The single currency fell to a new 16-month low of $1.2666 in New York on Monday.
The dollar was changing hands at 76.87 yen against 76.80 in New York.
New York’s main oil contract light sweet crude for delivery in February shed 54 cents to $101.70 per barrel and Brent North Sea crude for February delivery was down 39 cents to $112.89.
Gold was at $1,635.90 an ounce at 0300 GMT, against $1,627.90 late Tuesday.
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