Asian stocks move higher after signs of US rate hike

By YOUKYUNG LEE, AP Business Writer

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stock markets moved higher on Thursday as jitters from the attacks in Paris dissipated and investors cheered firmer signs of a Federal Reserve possible interest rate hike next month.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.1 percent to 19865.13 and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.9 percent to 1,980.37. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 1.3 percent to 22,463.35 while Australia’s SP/ASX200 jumped 2.1 percent to 5,242.60. Stocks in mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore were also higher.

THE FED: The minutes from the Fed’s October meeting revealed that Fed officials believed the U.S. job market would improve further and that inflation would begin to move toward their 2 percent annual target by the time the group meets next month. They also took note of the U.S. economy’s resilience through a summer of financial market turbulence and felt that global threats had “diminished.” The Fed has kept its benchmark for short-term rates near zero since late 2008. In a daily note, Mizuho Bank said investors were relieved because the latest Fed minutes dispelled uncertainty over a rate hike next month.

ANALYST’S TAKE: Even as worries about the Fed’s first rate hike may cause more volatility in stock markets in the near term, the rate hikes will be gradual and conditional on the U.S. economy’s improvement, said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital. He said “while U.S. shares are expensive on some measures, shares outside the U.S. are cheap indicating that there are still plenty of opportunities for investors.”

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks notched their best day in nearly four weeks on Wednesday as prospects for higher interest rates in coming months drove up stocks in financial companies. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 247.66 points, or 1.4 percent, to 17,737.16. The Standard Poor’s 500 index gained 33.14 points, or 1.6 percent, to 2,083.58. That’s the SP 500’s best gain since Oct. 22. The Nasdaq composite added 89.19 points, or 1.8 percent, to 5,075.20.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 16 cents at $40.91 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 8 cents to close at $40.75 a barrel on Wednesday after briefly dipping below $40 a barrel for the first time since August. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 33 cents at $44.47 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 123.33 yen from Wednesday’s 123.50 yen. The euro rose to $1.0704 from $1.0679. The dollar’s weakness despite stronger signs of an impending rate hike in the U.S. indicated that investors have already expected the rate increase next month, Mizuho Bank said in a commentary.

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