Asian Shares Follow Wall Street Higher

Asian stocks followed Wall Street higher on Thursday after former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, widely seen as a business-friendly candidate, strengthened his chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

Investor sentiment was also boosted by stimulus measures being taken by global central banks to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Overnight, the Bank of Canada slashed its key interest rate target by half a percentage point following rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

The International Monetary Fund also announced a $50 billion aid package for low income and emerging markets countries to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier, the World Bank announced an emergency package of $12 billion.

Investors continued to monitor developments on the coronavirus outbreak that has now spread worldwide, as confirmed cases reach more than 90,000 globally.

Chinese shares hit a six-week high, with financials and consumer staple stocks rising on expectations of more policy support from Beijing. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index surged up 60.01 points, or 2 percent, to 3,071.68, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped 545.80 points, or 2.1 percent, to 26.767.87.

Japanese shares posted their biggest single-day percentage gain in a month after Biden solidified his contender status for the Democratic presidential nomination in the U.S. Investors see him as a more business-friendly alternative to Bernie Sanders.

The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 229.06 points, or 1.1 percent, to 21,329.12, boosted by healthcare and industrial stocks. The broader Topix closed 0.9 percent higher at 1,515.71.

Takeda Pharmaceutical rallied 3.5 percent after the company said it was developing a drug for high-risk patients infected with the new coronavirus.

Kyowa Kirin surged 4.5 percent and Meiji Holdings advanced 4.2 percent. Industrial conglomerate Hitachi gained 4.2 percent.

Australian markets rose sharply supported by expectations of further monetary stimulus by global central banks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rallied 70.30 points, or 1.1 percent, to 6,395.70, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 73.90 points, or 1.2 percent, at 6,472.40.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto gave up 0.7 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively, while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group surged up 5.2 percent.

Banks ended narrowly mixed, while energy companies finished mostly higher. Myer Holdings slumped 4.4 percent after the department store chain reported a 37 percent decline in first-half profit on lower sales.

TPG Telecom shares jumped 9.6 percent after the company reported a profit for the first half that more than tripled to A$143.6 million.

On the economic front, Australia posted a seasonally adjusted merchandise trade surplus of A$5.210 billion in January, down 3.0 percent sequentially. That exceeded expectations for a surplus of A$4.80 billion following the A$5.223 billion surplus in the previous month.

Seoul stocks ended higher for the fourth day running amid expectations of further monetary easing by other major central banks. The benchmark Kospi gained 25.93 points, or 1.3 percent, to finish at 2,085.26. LG Chem shares soared 3.6 percent.

South Korea has confirmed 438 new coronavirus cases, taking total infections to 5,766. The Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention said three more people died from the virus, bringing the total to 35.

New Zealand shares rallied after the three major U.S. indexes closed about 4 percent higher overnight. The benchmark NZX 50 index jumped 223.11 points, or 2 percent, to 11,640.89, clocking a three-day winning streak. Utilities and healthcare companies led the surge, with Meridian Energy rising 2.1 percent and Ryman Healthcare climbing 5.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Straits Times Index edged down 0.2 percent after the release of gloomy economic data. Retail sales declined 5.3 percent year-on-year in January following a 3.4 percent decrease in December, a government report showed.

U.S. stocks posted strong gains overnight after U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden performed much better than expected in the Super Tuesday primaries.

A measure of U.S. services sector activity jumped to a one-year high in February and private sector employment increased by more than expected in February, helping ease growth worries.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average spiked 4.5 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite soared 3.9 percent and the S&P 500 jumped 4.2 percent.

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