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Stock market today: Asian shares track Wall Street rally as Japan's Nikkei nears a record high

Shares in Asia are higher, with Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index coming close to its record set 35 year ago

Elaine Kurtenbach
Friday 16 February 2024 06:37 GMT

Shares advanced in Asia on Friday, with Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index trading near a record high, 35 years after it peaked and then plunged with the collapse of Japan's financial bubble.

U.S. futures were lower after stocks on Wall Street set a fresh record following some mixed reports on the economy.

The Nikkei 225 closed 0.9% higher, at 38,487.24. It has been hovering just below the record high of 38,915.87 that it set on Dec. 29, 1989, right before a plunge in share and property prices ushered in an era of slower, faltering growth. At its highest point Friday, it traded at 38,865.06.

Share prices have been pressing higher despite persisting signs of weakness in the Japanese economy, which fell into recession in the last quarter of 2023. Efforts to sustain growth at higher levels have had limited success, undermined by weak private investment and consumer spending.

Changes to rules regarding tax-free investment accounts have accounted for some of the runup in Japanese share prices. A weak yen has attracted bargain hunters, and stocks also have profited from investors shifting out of Chinese markets.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumped 2.5% to 16,340.85 and the Kospi in Seoul rose 1.3% to 2,647.94.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.7% to 7,658.30. Bangkok's SET was flat and the Sensex in India was up 0.5%.

Taiwan's Taiex edged 0.2% lower a day after breaching a record high of 18,644.57 as major market mover TSMC, the world's biggest computer chip maker, surged nearly 8%. That jump followed an upgrade by analysts of share price recommendations for Nvidia, whose main chip supplier is TSMC, due to expected growth in artificial intelligence.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 0.6% to 5,029.73, squeaking past its all-time high set last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.9% to 38,773.12 and the Nasdaq composite climbed 0.3%, to 15,906.17.

The mixed set of data on the economy included a report showing sales at U.S. retailers weakened by more in January from December than expected. It was a striking drop in spending by U.S. households, whose strength has helped keep the economy out of a recession, even with high interest rates. The upside for financial markets is that it could also remove some upward pressure on inflation.

A separate report said fewer U.S. workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than expected, the latest signal of a solid job market despite high-profile announcements of layoffs.

Altogether, the economic reports helped send Treasury yields lower in the bond market. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.24% from 4.27% late Wednesday.

Treasury yields have been swiveling recently. Stronger-than-expected reports on inflation, the job market and the overall economy have forced traders on Wall Street to delay their forecasts for when the Federal Reserve will begin cutting interest rates.

The Fed has already hiked its main interest rate to the highest level since 2001. The hope is that high rates will squeeze the economy just enough to get inflation down to a comfortable level without causing a recession.

CBRE Group jumped 8.5% for one of the largest gains in the S&P 500 after it joined the parade of companies beating analysts' expectations for profit in the last three months of 2023. Despite difficult conditions for commercial real estate, the company also reported stronger revenue than expected.

Shake Shack was another winner, rising 26% after the burger chain reported better profit and revenue than expected. Its total revenue jumped 20% from a year before, more than forecast.

Wells Fargo climbed 7.2% and was one of the stronger forces pushing the S&P 500 upward. Regulators at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency removed a consent order issued in 2016, which required the bank to revamp how it sells products to customers after it was caught opening unauthorized accounts.

In other trading Friday, U.S. benchmark crude oil rose 9 cents to $78.12 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude, the international standard, shed 5 cents to $82.81 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 150.24 Japanese yen from 149.94 yen. The euro slipped to $1.0760 from $1.0773.

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