Asia shares rally after US growth figures

[HONG KONG] Asian markets rallied on Friday and the dollar edged back towards 110 yen after the United States released forecast-busting economic growth data that soothes concerns about the global outlook.

Japanese stocks led the way as the weakening of the yen and a report that the country's vast national pension fund would double its domestic stock holdings offset another batch of poor indicators.

Tokyo climbed 1.73 per cent, Hong Kong put on 0.70 per cent, Shanghai added 0.23 percent, Sydney was 0.59 per cent higher and Seoul tacked on 0.21 per cent.

The US Commerce Department said the world's largest economy grew at an annualised 3.5 per cent in July-September owing to stronger exports and defence spending. Expectations had been for a 3.0 per cent rise.

Thursday's news came a day after the Federal Reserve brought an end to its stimulus programme following months of strong figures that show the economy is well on the track to recovery.

"Anything that helps to dispel fears that the US economic recovery is not on pace is encouraging for stock investors," Naoki Fujiwara, fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management, told Dow Jones Newswires.

However, the reading, coupled with upbeat comments about the jobs market from the Fed, stoked speculation that the bank could hike interest rates earlier than its timetabled mid-2015 date.

With rates widely expected to rise next year, traders have piled back into the dollar, pushing it back towards 110 yen.

In early Tokyo trade the greenback fetched 109.34 yen, compared with 109.22 yen in New York and 109.08 yen in Tokyo earlier Thursday.

Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said: "If growth continues at this pace - we think it will - the first Fed tightening could easily come in the spring, especially if wage gains start to pick up." US stocks were also pushed higher, 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.

In Japan a report in the Nikkei business daily that the country's US$1.2 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund plans to boost investment in domestic and foreign stocks outweighed more weak economic data.

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.

On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell 13 US cents to US$80.99 while Brent crude was down 31 US cents at US$85.93.

Gold was at US$1,202.54 an ounce, against US$1,205.80 late Thursday.


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