Asian Equities Ends Week On Positive Note As Fears of Rate Hikes Ease

Asian stocks traded mostly higher Friday to end the week on a positive note as the Dow and the S&P 500 reversed some of their midweek pullback, while comments from a Federal Reserve official eased concerns of speeding up rate hikes this year.

The U.S. markets were little changed Thursday, as the Dow added 0.7%, the S&P 500 closed just in the green, while the Nasdaq lost 0.11%.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard warned that too many rate hikes this year would restrict economic growth, and that he did not expect the years of below-target inflation to change rapidly.

Japan’s CPI was in focus as the data showed inflation rose 0.9% in January from a year earlier, compared with a median market forecast of 0.8%. The data brought some uncertainty over the economic outlook as it showed the country’s inflation remains distant from the central bank’s 2% target. The yen however showed little reaction following the release of the data, while the Nikkei closed 0.62% higher.

Finance Minister Taro Aso’s comment gathered some attention as he said he wanted to raise the national sales tax as scheduled in October 2019, to 10% from 8% now.Takata Corp (OTC:TKTDQ) also received some focus as the airbag producer settled $650 million in claims.

Mainland Chinese markets were mixed Friday afternoon after both major indices surged more than 2% Thursday, the first day of trading after the long Chinese New Year break.

The Shanghai Composite gained 0.45% while Shenzhen Composite lost 0.24% by 1:35am ET. Anbang Insurance made headlines as China’s Insurance Regulatory Commission said it would take control of the company for one year as the company had illegal business operations that could harm its solvency, and had asked the company to remove Wu Xiaohui from its chairman role. China’s January property price data is due tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index clawed back some losses and gained 1.1% by mid-afternoon Friday.

Casino operator Wynn Macau Ltd. received some focus as U.S. regulators said the sexual harassment investigation was still ongoing and would be a priority for them. Hong Kong-listed Wynn Macau Ltd (HK:1128) was up 1.13% to $26.75.

South Korea’s Bank of Korea is set to hold its key interest rate unchanged at 1.5% next week, a survey showed, adding that the central bank is on course to raise them in May.

Elsewhere, Australis’ S&P/ASX 200 extended its gains from the morning and closed 0.82% higher, supported by the materials sector.

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