Asian Shares Follow Wall Street Higher

Asian stocks rose broadly on Wednesday, tracking overnight gains in the U.S. and European markets after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the U.S. central bank is committed to helping the economy.

Chinese stocks finished slightly higher, with healthcare stocks gaining ground after the state planner said the country would speed up development of vaccine innovation, diagnostic, testing reagents and antibody drugs.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index edged up 5.41 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,279.71. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index inched up 0.1 percent to 23,742.51.

Japanese shares ended little changed with a negative bias as traders returned to their desks after a long weekend. The Nikkei 225 Index slipped 13.81 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 23,346.49 as investors fretted over rising coronavirus infections in Europe and a delay in U.S. fiscal stimulus. The broader Topix ended down 0.1 percent at 1,644.25.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group tumbled 2.6 percent. Exporters ended broadly lower despite a weaker yen. Sony shed 1.4 percent, Panasonic lost 3.7 percent and Honda Motor gave up 2.8 percent. Suzuki Motor slipped 3.6 percent and Nissan Motor declined 3.2 percent.

Fujifilm Holdings soared 4.9 percent after the company completed delayed clinical tests of Avigan, a potential treatment for Covid-19. Home furnishing store operator Shimachu jumped 17.4 percent on reports rival DCM Holdings was considering a tender offer for the firm.

In economic news, the latest survey from Jibun Bank revealed that the manufacturing sector in Japan continued to contract in September, albeit at a slightly slower pace, with a manufacturing PMI score of 47.3.

Australian markets rebounded from three-month lows as authorities eased some border restrictions amid improved coronavirus indicators in both NSW and Victoria. Investors shrugged off data showing that Australian retail sales fell 4.2 percent in August from the month earlier.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index jumped 139.80 points, or 2.4 percent, to 5,923.90, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 137.80 points, or 2.3 percent, at 6,111.30.

The big four banks rallied 2-3 percent amid predictions of an RBI interest rate easing next month. Healthcare stocks advanced, with CSL and Cochlear rising nearly 4 percent each.

Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy rose 1-2 percent after crude oil prices rebounded overnight. In the tech sector, Afterpay climbed 2.9 percent and Appen advanced 1.9 percent.

Meanwhile, gold miners ended broadly lower after bullion prices declined for a second straight session overnight.

Seoul stocks rose slightly to snap a two-day losing streak. The benchmark Kospi edged up 0.65 point, or less than a tenth of a percent, to close at 2,333.24 after falling as much as 2.4 percent in the previous session.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics rose 0.7 percent, No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix added 2.8 percent and internet portal giant Naver rallied 4.2 percent.

Rechargeable battery maker Samsung SDI declined 2.2 percent after Tesla founder Elon Musk announced technology that he says will make Tesla batteries cheaper and more powerful.

New Zealand shares rose notably as the country’s central bank held its official cash rate at a record low, retained its large scale asset purchase program at NZ$100 billion and hinted at further policy easing. The benchmark NZX-50 index rose 95.40 points, or 0.8 percent, to 11,704.62.

U.S. stocks recovered from intraday losses to end on a firm note overnight despite fresh lockdown measures in parts of Europe and continued uncertainty about a new relief package in the U.S.

Buying emerged at lower levels after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank remains “committed to using our tools to do what we can, for as long as it takes, to ensure that the recovery will be as strong as possible.”

Separately, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House continues to seek an agreement with both parties in Congress on another fiscal relief package.

The Dow rose half a percent, the S&P 500 gained 1 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.7 percent.

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