Asians Stocks Mostly Higher as Japan Leads on Stimulus Hopes

People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO (AP) – Asian shares were mostly higher Thursday as Japan’s benchmark rose on hopes of Japanese government stimulus spending and better-than-expected earnings lifted Wall Street.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.4 percent to 16,921.25 in morning trading. South Korea’s Kospi was virtually unchanged at 2,015.68. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged up nearly 1.0 percent to 21,882.48. The Shanghai Composite rose 0.1 percent to 3,030.54.

Japanese media reported the government may be considering a 20 trillion yen ($186 billion) fiscal stimulus package. That sent Japan’s benchmark and the U.S. dollar higher against the yen. A cheap yen works as a plus for Japan’s giant exporters.

Technology stocks finished higher on Wall Street, following an encouraging report from Microsoft that said momentum in its cloud-computing business helped it to return to a profit in its fiscal fourth quarter.

Both the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and Dow Jones industrial average set all-time highs, and the Dow marked its ninth consecutive day of gains — the longest winning streak since 2013. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 9.24 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 2,173.02. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 36.02, or 0.2 percent, to 18,595.03. The Nasdaq composite rose 53.56, or 1.1 percent, to 5,089.93.

Investors are watching for the news conference later in the day by the European Central Bank to see what actions might be ahead to shore up the European economy.

“Mario Draghi’s speech is hotly anticipated by investors as they look for clues and guidance on what measures the central bank will take post Brexit to navigate through uncertainty,” said Alex Wijaya, senior sales trader at CMC Markets.

The price of U.S. crude oil rose 4 cents to $45.79 per barrel. Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose 15 cents to $47.32 a barrel.

The euro was little changed at $1.1017 from $1.1015, while the dollar rose to 107.38 yen from 106.01 yen.