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Asia stocks surge, yen dives on US data, Bank of Japan move

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Asian markets rallied Friday and the dollar pushed towards 111 yen after Japan's central bank said it would expand its vast monetary easing scheme and the United States released forecast-busting economic growth data.

[HONG KONG] Asian markets rallied Friday and the dollar pushed towards 111 yen after Japan's central bank said it would expand its vast monetary easing scheme and the United States released forecast-busting economic growth data.

Japanese clocked up massive gains of almost five percent to sit at a seven-year high after the Bank of Japan announced its surprise decision as it tries to drag the economy back to growth and avoid recession.

The Nikkei jumped 4.83 per cent, adding 755.56 points to 16,413.76 - its highest since November 2007 - with buying further boosted by a report that country's vast national pension fund would double its domestic equities holdings. The index is now in positive territory for the year to date.

Sydney closed up 0.92 per cent, or 50.4 points, at 5,526.6 and Seoul tacked on 0.28 per cent, or 5.50 points, to end at 1,964.43.

In the afternoon Hong Kong was up 1.23 per cent and Shanghai added 0.89 per cent.

The BoJ said Friday it would add up to 20 trillion yen (US$182 billion) to its current asset-buying scheme, bringing it to 80 trillion yen annually.

The decision sent the yen sinking to 110.90 against the dollar, levels not seen since January 2008. The euro rose to 139.13 yen from 137.79 yen in morning trade and 137.75 yen in New York on Thursday.

The Japanese unit was already heading south after data showed the US economy grew a better-than-expected 3.5 per cent in the three months to the end of September.

Friday's move is the first since the BoJ launched its huge bond-buying scheme in April last year as part of Tokyo's wider plan to conquer years of deflation and jumpstart the economy.

It comes as the world's number three economy struggles to pick up following an April sales tax hike that torpedoed a nascent recovery.

The economy contracted 7.1 per cent on an annualised basis in the second of the year and there are fears of another downturn in July-September, which would technically put the country in recession.

Official figures showed Friday that September inflation slowed further, household spending plunged and unemployment rose, raising further questions about the government's recovery plan, which saw a painful sales tax hike in April.

Also in Japan a report in the Nikkei business daily said the country's public pension fund - the world's biggest - will double the amount of stocks it holds in its investment portfolio as it seeks out higher returns to cope with an ageing population.

Wall Street ended on a high after the US growth data, with the Dow surging 1.30 per cent, while the S&P 500 added 0.62 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 0.37 per cent.

On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for December delivery fell 37 US cents to US$80.75 while Brent crude for December was down 36 US cents at US$85.88 in afternoon trade.

The price of gold, considered a safe bet in times of uncertainty, fell to US$1,187.80 an ounce from US$1,205.80 late Thursday.

In other markets: - Taipei rose 0.98 per cent, or 86.69 points, to 8,974.76.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing added 1.56 per cent to Tw$103.5 while Acer was 0.97 per cent higher at Tw$20.85.

- Wellington rose 0.33 per cent, or 17.65 points, to 5,387.83.

Trade Me ended up 1.03 per cent at NZ$3.92 and Contact Energy gained 0.32 percent to close at NZ$6.20.

AFP