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Asian stocks rise tracking Wall St tech rally; Nonfarm payrolls awaited

Published 02/01/2024, 10:10 PM
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Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks rose on Friday, with technology-heavy indexes leading gains after strength in their U.S. counterparts spurred record-high closes on Wall Street.

But bigger gains were still held back by caution ahead of key U.S. nonfarm payrolls data, due later in the day. Markets were also skittish over the reading after the Federal Reserve downplayed any expectations of early interest rate cuts this year. 

Weakness in China persisted, with the Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes lagging their peers following underwhelming purchasing managers index data released earlier this week. The two indexes were also close to five and four-year lows. 

Asian tech outperforms on positive cues, Chinese videogame cheer

Still, regional tech stocks were given a positive lead-in from Wall Street, following strong earnings from Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Meta Platforms Inc (NASDAQ:META). The two surged on Thursday, with Meta clocking a nearly 15% jump in aftermarket trade after it announced a $50 billion buyback. 

These gains spilled over into tech-heavy Asian bourses. South Korea’s KOSPI jumped 2.2%, also taking support from a softer-than-expected consumer price index (CPI) inflation reading for January.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 1.3%, defying weakness in mainland Chinese stocks on strength in its tech majors. Videogame stocks, particularly heavyweight Tencent Holdings Ltd (HK:0700), rallied over 4% after the government unexpectedly approved 32 imported online games, several of which will be operated by Tencent. 

Australia’s ASX 200 jumped 1.4% to a record high of 7,696.30 points, and was buoyed chiefly by technology and gold stocks. Producer Price Index inflation data for the fourth quarter grew less than expected, raising hopes for easing inflation in the country. 

Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a muted open, although local tech heavyweights are likely to track their regional peers. But investors were encouraged by a somewhat conservative fiscal annual budget from the ruling BJP party, ahead of a general election this year. 

Positive earnings from Meta and Amazon helped investors largely look past a weak showing from iPhone maker Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL). While the firm beat expectations for quarterly earnings, its Chinese sales still declined.

Hong Kong-listed Apple supplier AAC Technologies (HK:2018) rose 2.1%. 

Japanese gains held back by bank jitters

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.2% on strength in the tech sector. But bigger gains were held back by losses in major bank stocks, which were fueled by a mix of profit-taking and fears of exposure to U.S. property market headwinds.

The TOPIX Banks index sank 0.5%, with Aozora Bank, Ltd. (TYO:8304) leading losses on the index for a second straight session. The stock slid 15.1% on Friday after it flagged an unexpected, outsized annual loss due to increasing provisions for bad loans tied to U.S. commercial property.

Losses in Aozora spilled over into broader Japanese banks, as investors feared potential contagion and similar headwinds for other lenders with U.S. exposure.

Heavyweight Nomura Holdings Inc (TYO:8604) fell 1.4% from a near nine-year high. The financial giant saw stellar gains earlier this week after it clocked a record quarterly revenue from its investment banking division, and said it will buy back up to 4% of its shares. 

Broader Asian markets were focused largely on U.S. nonfarm payrolls data due later in the day, which is widely expected to factor into the Federal Reserve's plans to eventually cut interest rates this year. Traders are positioning for a May rate cut.

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