Asian Stocks Mixed After ECB Announcement, U.S. Data

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) —
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Friday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Asian stock markets were mixed Friday after Wall Street largely finished with gains following the European Central Bank’s (ECB) announcement to phase out its bond-buying stimulus. Upbeat U.S. data helped bolster sentiment.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 finished 0.5-percent higher at 22,851.75 but South Korea’s Kospi retreated 0.8 percent to 2,404.04. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index inched down 0.1 percent to 30,404.27 while China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.7 percent to 3,022.47. Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 jumped 1.3 percent to 6,094.00. Stocks in Taiwan were higher while in Indonesia, markets were closed for a holiday.

The ECB on Thursday said it would phase out by the end of the year its bond-buying stimulus for the 19 countries that use the euro. It had deployed the program in 2015 to save the region from the risk of falling prices and growth. It also said it plans to hold off on raising interest rates until at least the summer of 2019, which is longer than some investors expected.

“While investors may fear higher interest rates, the stronger underlying economies that drive the stimulus withdrawal are positive for company profits,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking, said in a daily commentary. “These competing drivers mean that investor sentiment swings are an important consideration for markets.”

The data for the U.S. economy released on Thursday were encouraging. Retail sales jumped in May after shoppers spent more at home and garden stores, gas stations and restaurants. A separate report showed that fewer U.S. workers filed for unemployment claims last week than expected, an encouraging sign for the labor market.

U.S. stocks finished mostly higher on Thursday. The S&P 500 index rose 6.86 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,782.49. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 25.89, or 0.1 percent, to 25,175.31, and the Nasdaq composite rose 65.34, or 0.8 percent, to 7,761.04, a record.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 4 cents to $66.93 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, it rose 25 cents to settle at $66.89 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 3 cents to $75.91 per barrel. On Thursday, it fell 80 cents to $75.94.

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