Asian Share Markets Gain, U.S. Dollar Weaker After Fed Hike

A broker works at his post as a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shows the decision of the Federal Reserve, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Asian stocks rose Thursday following a U.S. rate hike and a Euroskeptic party’s defeat in Dutch elections.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index advanced less than 0.1 percent to 19,585.57 and the Shanghai Composite index gained 0.7 percent to 3,264.75. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 1.5 percent to 24,146.81 and Seoul’s Kospi rose 0.6 percent to 2,146.33. India’s Sensex climbed 0.5 percent to 29,531.05 and benchmarks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore also rose. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 5,785.80.

The Fed raised short-term interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point, its third such move since the end of 2015. The move was widely expected. The central bank stressed that it plans to move gradually and stuck to its projection that it will raise rates a total of three times this year. That cooled speculation among some investors that the Fed could move more aggressively.

Stocks rose as investors took the Fed’s widely anticipated rate hike in stride. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index jumped 0.8 percent to 2,385.26. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to 20,950.10. The Nasdaq composite picked up 0.7 percent to 5,900.05. Gains were widespread, and seven stocks rose on the New York Stock Exchange for every one that fell.

“The Fed took off as expected but left the market with a more ‘gradual’ view with regards to future rate hikes,” said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report. “Comments by Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen in her press conference had been perceived as dovish. The Fed chair had reiterated that the committee expects a ‘gradual increase’ in rates on the back of evolving economic conditions and monetary policy ‘remains accommodative’ at present.”

China’s central bank raised a short-term interest rate on lending to banks but left its benchmark rate unchanged following the U.S. increase. The People’s Bank of China increased the rate for its six-month and one-year medium-term lending facility and open-market repurchase operations by 0.1 percent. The benchmark one-year commercial lending rate was unchanged. The bank cited the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Wednesday rate hike and improved Chinese economic conditions.

Hong Kong’s central bank copied the Fed by raising its benchmark lending rate by one-quarter point to 1.25 percent. The Asian finance hub’s currency is pegged to the dollar, which means authorities copy U.S. monetary policy. “U.S. interest rate normalization will definitely impact on fund flows in asset markets around the world, including Hong Kong,” said the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s chief executive, Norman Chan.

Japan’s central bank held monetary policy steady as the Fed and Europe’s central bank move toward tightening. The Bank of Japan ended a policy meeting by, as expected, leaving its benchmark lending rate unchanged at minus 0.1 percent and saying it would work toward a 2 percent inflation rate target. The central bank is buying about 80 trillion yen ($700 billion) a year of Japanese government bonds to inject cash into the economy. Interest rates are near zero with the goal of stimulating inflation to encourage businesses and consumers to borrow and spend. The BOJ said the world’s third-largest economy was on a “moderate recovery trend.”

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 28 cents to $49.14 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract soared $1.14 on Wednesday to $48.86. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 31 cents to $52.12. It gained 89 cents the previous session to $51.81.

The dollar weakened to 113.30 yen from Wednesday’s 113.38 yen. The euro edged down to $1.0726 from $1.0732.

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