Asian shares were mostly higher Thursday following a surprise rate cut by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and an overnight bounce in oil markets. Sentiment also benefited from expectations that the European Central Bank will slash interest rates and increase the amount of securities it buys from the market each month.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 1.4 percent to 16,870.42. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent lower to 5,153.50, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbed 0.5 percent to 20,087.40 and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.9 percent to 1,969.69. China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 1 percent to 2,836.90. Southeast Asian markets were mixed.
“Asian markets have reacted fairly well to the bounce back in oil prices overnight,” said IG market analyst Angus Nicholson. “Expectations in the equity markets are clearly buoyant ahead of the ECB meeting this evening, although the sharp sell-off seen in the wake of the ECB’s December meeting is still very fresh in the minds of many investors.”
New Zealand’s central bank lowered its benchmark interest rate to a record low 2.25 percent Thursday, saying the rate could go lower yet as the country grapples with weak international growth and lower prices for its crucial dairy exports. That pushed New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 Index up 0.8 percent to 6,505.28.
Stocks edged higher, led by gains in energy companies as prices for oil and natural gas rose. Wednesday marked the 7th anniversary of the bull market, making it one of the longest in history. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 36.26 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,000.36. The Nasdaq composite increased 25.55 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,674.38. The S&P 500 climbed 10 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,989.26.
U.S. crude shed 6 cents a barrel to $38.23 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped 4.9 percent or $1.79 Wednesday to $38.29. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, lost 17 cents to $40.90 a barrel.
The euro slipped to $1.0978 from $1.0986. The dollar rose to 113.76 yen from 113.19 yen.