Asian Shares Inch Higher After Dovish Powell Comments

Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Wednesday after Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s reassurance that the recent inflation rate has grown faster than expected but will likely slow down the road helped stabilize U.S. Treasury yields and triggered a tech rally on Wall Street overnight.

Chinese stocks gained ground, with healthcare companies in focus after the National Medical Products Administration said it has approved the first CAR-T cell therapy in the country.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 8.81 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,566.22, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index surged up 507.31 points, or 1.8 percent, to 28,817.07.

Japanese shares ended on a flat note, giving up early gains after a survey showed the manufacturing sector in the country expanded at a slower pace in June.

A rise by the services PMI for the month and an upbeat assessment on the economic outlook, as revealed by minutes from the Bank of Japan’s April meeting, helped limit the downside to some extent.

The Nikkei 225 Index finished marginally lower at 28,874.89, while the broader Topix closed 0.5 percent lower at 1,949.14.

Tech shares such as Advantest, Screen Holdings and Tokyo Electron climbed 1-2 percent, while conglomerate Sony lost 2 percent. Uniqlo casual wear operator and market heavyweight Fast Retailing rallied 2 percent.

Nissan Motor dropped 0.7 percent after a report that it will adjust production at several factories next month because of a chip shortage. Honda Motor fell over 1 percent and Toyota gave up 1.8 percent.

Australian markets ended lower after posting their best session in nearly four months. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 43.70 points, or 0.6 percent, to 7,298.50 after climbing 1.5 percent in the previous session.

The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 40.60 points, or 0.5 percent, at 7,552.10, as traders digested weaker than expected local manufacturing and services data.

Woodside Petroleum and Santos dropped more than 2 percent after crude oil prices fell overnight. Ampol gave up 1.1 percent and Viva Energy shed 1.8 percent despite the Australian parliament approving plans to pay them up to A$2.3 billion ($1.8 billion) in oil refinery subsidies.

The big four banks fell 1-2 percent, while tech stocks such as Afterpay and Appen surged over 3 percent each.

Seoul stocks ended higher for the second day running as dovish Powell comments helped ease investor concerns of fast tapering. The Kospi rose 12.31 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 3,276.19.

Pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics gained 1.3 percent and chipmaker SK Hynix advanced 1.6 percent, while internet portal operator Naver surged 8.3 percent to a record high.

New Zealand shares eked out modest gains, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index ending up 51.69 points, or 0.4 percent, at 12,586.49 despite a rise in Wellington’s COVID alert level. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare shares advanced 1.7 percent to extend gains from the previous session.

U.S. stocks rose overnight after Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that inflation pressures will be temporary and stressed that the Fed will do everything to support the economy for as long as it takes to complete the recovery.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.8 percent to reach a new record closing high, while the S&P 500 rose half a percent and the Dow edged up 0.2 percent.

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