Nov 29, 2012

Asia - Asian markets rise on US fiscal deal hopes

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HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly tracked Wall Street higher on Thursday as investors following US talks aimed at avoiding a fiscal cliff welcomed positive comments from both sides of the political divide.

Higher-yielding "riskier" currencies also rose on hopes of progress on a resolution over the package of tax hikes and spending cuts due on January 1 that will likely tip the US economy back into recession.

Tokyo added 0.99 per cent, or 92.53 points, to 9,400.88, Sydney was 0.68 per cent, or 30.4 points, higher at 4,477.7, and Seoul climbed 1.15 per cent, or 22.07 points, to 1,934.85.

Hong Kong also rose 0.99 per cent, picking up 213.91 points to 21,922.89 but Shanghai fell 0.51 per cent, or 10.04 points, to 1,963.49, a near four-year low.

With the focus now almost entirely on Washington, House of Representatives speaker John Boehner on Wednesday said he was optimistic of a deal between his Republicans and their Democratic rivals.

Later in the day, US President Barack Obama also said he expected a solution would be found before Christmas.

"Our ultimate goal is an agreement that gets our long-term deficit under control in a way that is fair and balanced," Obama said.

"I believe that both parties can agree on a framework that does that in the coming weeks," he said. "In fact, my hope is to get this done before Christmas."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's office said he would meet members of Congress on Thursday to discuss "a balanced approach to reduce our deficit".

"They have a relatively tight deadline to sort this out. I think they will, because it is in nobody's interests to push the economy off the rails," said Joe Bracken, head of macro strategies at BT Investment Management in Sydney.

"You will have a lot of 'he said, she said' over the next few weeks, and markets will remain volatile," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Wall Street was higher on Wednesday.

The Dow climbed 0.83 per cent, the S&P 500 gained 0.79 per cent and the Nasdaq added 0.81 per cent.

The news came as relief to markets, which had been spooked by comments on Tuesday from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that "little progress" had been made in cross-party talks.

On forex markets, investors sold the safe haven yen, which has been falling in recent weeks after the man who is widely expected to become prime minister following next month's polls said he would embark on aggressive monetary easing.

The euro was at US$1.2966, compared with US$1.2939 in New York late Wednesday, while it was also at 106.56 yen, from 106.14 yen.

The dollar bought 82.16 yen, from 82.03 yen.

Oil prices rose. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for January delivery, was up 44 cents to US$86.93 a barrel in the afternoon, and Brent North Sea crude for January climbed 30 cents to US$109.81.

Gold was at US$1,724.60 at 1030 GMT compared with US$1,740.80 late Wednesday.

In other markets, Taipei rose 0.92 per cent, or 68.62 points, to 7,503.55; Manila closed 0.12 per cent higher, adding 6.73 points to 5,640.45; Wellington ended 0.12 per cent higher, adding 4.62 points to 4,016.77; Jakarta rose 0.33 per cent, or 14.26 points, to 4,319.09; Bangkok added 0.74 percent, or 9.63 points, to 1,309.57; Kuala Lumpur ended flat, inching up 0.8 points to close at 1,607.32; and Mumbai gained 1.75 per cent, or 328.83 points, to 19,170.91.

- AFP/ms

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