Asian Stocks Stable as Investors Assess Global Conditions

HONG KONG (AP) -
A man walks past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan January 12, 2016. Japan's Nikkei fell 2.7 percent after a market holiday on Monday, closing at its lowest in nearly a year, while U.S. stock mini futures were in the red pointing to a weak start. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
A man walks past an electronic board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. (Reuters/Toru Hanai)

Asian stock markets held fairly steady Friday, as investors, pleased by U.S. and Japanese central bank policy decisions this week to keep rates low for the time being, paused to assess global conditions.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index dipped 0.3 percent to 16,763.19 while South Korea’s Kospi crept up 0.1 percent to 2,052.49. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.1 percent to 23,734.77 and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China dipped 0.2 percent 3,036.20. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 1 percent to 5,427.90.

Markets rallied earlier this week after the Fed and the Bank of Japan both decided to keep key interest rates at the ultralow levels that have fueled a multiyear stock-market boom. U.S. policymakers said the case for a rate hike has strengthened but held off for now, adding to speculation that it won’t make a move until December. Investors are now looking ahead to the release next week of a raft of economic data, such as monthly U.S. consumer confidence and durable goods orders and Chinese factory activity, for the latest insights on the world economy’s health.

“Global monetary policy is set to remain easy for some time yet,” Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney, said in a report. “Which means the broad environment (i.e., beyond short-term event risks) remains positive for shares and growth assets.”

Major U.S. benchmarks finished with solid gains. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to 18,392.46. Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 0.7 percent to 2,177.18 and the Nasdaq composite climbed 0.8 percent to 5,339.52.

U.S. benchmark crude oil futures lost 52 cents to $45.80 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 98 cents to settle at $46.32 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 45 cents to $47.76 a barrel.

The dollar climbed to 100.95 yen from 100.84 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro slipped to $1.1201 from $1.1209.