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Asia: Markets rise after Wall Street gains

[HONG KONG] Tokyo led a rally in Asian shares on Wednesday, tracking overnight gains on Wall Street that saw the Nasdaq close at a fresh record.

The gains, after a muted start to the week in Asia, came on the back of solid US economic data, and were augmented by rising oil prices and a series of strong earnings reports that combined to provide a positive outlook for global growth.

Data releases showed US consumer confidence hit a 17-year high in October, just as congressional Republicans prepare to unveil President Donald Trump's long-anticipated tax cut plan, which allows for about US$1.5 trillion in tax cuts.

Meanwhile oil prices rose to a two-year high, as Opec members honoured pledges to curb supply and exports from northern Iraq fell.

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And Asia has witnessed an impressive profit reporting season, with Sony the latest tech giant to announce it was expecting record annual profits.

Sony surged 11.6 percent at one point Wednesday, with strong results attributed to its PlayStation games division and a booming smartphone parts business, as well as a hit with the newest Spider-Man movie.

Tokyo was trading up 1.4 per cent at the lunch break, with technology shares soaring as exporters benefited from a weak yen.

Japan's central bank announced Tuesday it would keep its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged, even though overseas counterparts have started turning off the stimulus taps.

Honda and ANA were due to release first-half results Wednesday.

Hong Kong was trading up 0.6 per cent, and Shanghai 0.2 per cent, as new numbers showed Chinese factory activity stabilised in October.

In South Korea, where Samsung Electronics logged a record profit of US$10.0 billion for the third quarter and announced a sweeping reshuffle of its top management on Tuesday, the Kospi index rose 1.0 per cent, despite data showing October exports rising by less than expected.

US FEDERAL RESERVE MEETS

The result of the US Federal Reserve meeting is due to be published after Asian markets close on Wednesday.

While interest rates are not expected to move immediately, investors will scrutinise the announcement for indications of a widely anticipated December hike.

Overshadowing the whole process is Mr Trump's imminent decision on whether to replace Fed chief Janet Yellen, with the announcement likely to come out Thursday ahead of the president's departure on an 11-day Asia tour.

Centrist Jerome Powell is tipped to be the frontrunner, with investors pricing in his more dovish continuity stance compared to rival John Taylor.

Activity at the Fed comes at the forefront of a busy week of economic news out of the US more generally, with traders also keeping a close eye on key payroll data out on Friday.

Meanwhile, US Republicans have delayed unveiling the Trump-backed tax overhaul until Thursday, signalling potential trouble ahead as congressional leadership struggles to lock in support for the historic but controversial effort.

The New York attack by a truck driver that killed eight people, and Mr Trump's pledge of more robust "extreme vetting" of travellers coming into the US, took place after the close on Wall Street, but did not appear to have impacted on investor sentiment.

AFP

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