Asian stocks ended mixed in light trading on Thursday ahead of the Good Friday holiday in many countries. Underlying sentiment remained supported somewhat on expectations of more central bank stimulus and amid optimism that coronavirus infections around the world are nearing a peak.
Chinese stocks climbed on hopes the coronavirus pandemic may be approaching a peak. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 10.53 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,825.90 as Wuhan returned to normalcy following the easing of lockdown restrictions in the city. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped 329.96 points, or 1.4 percent, to 24,300.33.
Meanwhile, Japanese shares fell after three straight days of gains as the country recorded 503 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, marking its biggest daily increase since the outbreak began.
The Nikkei 225 Index finished marginally lower at 19,345.77 on worries about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on corporate earnings. The broader Topix closed 0.6 percent lower at 1,416.98.
Heavyweight SoftBank Group rose over 1 percent after reports that Oyo Hotels & Homes, backed by SoftBank, is furloughing some employees to cut costs.
Nissan Motor added 1.4 percent on a Nikkei report that the automaker has requested a 500-billion-yen commitment line from major lenders
Australian markets rallied after the Reserve Bank of Australia said the country’s financial system faces “increased risks” from the coronavirus pandemic but it’s “well placed to manage them.”
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index surged up 180.40 points, or 3.5 percent, to 5,387.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index spiked 180.60 points, or 3.4 percent, to 5,439.40.
The big four banks jumped 3-7 percent after the central bank observed in its Financial Stability Review report that capital levels are high and the banks’ liquidity position has improved considerably over recent times.
Energy stocks such as Beach Energy, Origin Energy, Oil Search, Woodside Petroleum and Santos rose 5-8 percent after crude oil prices gained more than 6 percent overnight.
CSL soared 5.5 percent after the biotechnology giant affirmed its full-year profit guidance.
Seoul stocks advanced as the Bank of Korea kept its benchmark lending rate unchanged at a record low of 0.75 percent, matching expectations following an emergency 50 basis point rate cut last month to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The benchmark Kospi climbed 29.07 points, or 1.6 percent, to 1,836.21.
New Zealand shares declined as investors booked profits in shares of companies that have performed well throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
The benchmark NZX 50 Index dropped 67.76 points, or 0.7 percent, to 9,963.90, with A2 Milk and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare pacing the decliners. SkyCity Entertainment Group soared 9.1 percent and Air New Zealand added 7.8 percent.
New Zealand retail sales decreased a seasonally adjusted 3.9 percent month-on-month in March after a 0.5 percent rise in February, official data showed. This was the biggest fall ever recorded.
Overnight, U.S. stocks rose sharply after White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told Fox News the U.S. could see the “beginning of a turnaround” after a “bad week for deaths” this week.
Health insurers got an additional boost after Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 3.4 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 2.6 percent and the S&P 500 added 3.4 percent to reach their best closing levels in nearly a month.
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