CANBERA (Alliance News) - Asian stocks rose broadly on Friday as easing geopolitical concerns and a string of upbeat US economic reports spurred optimism over the course of the global economy. But trading remained light and gains were muted heading into Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's speech at an annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, tonight.
Investors are pinning hopes that Yellen will deliver a dovish message given the lack of upside wage pressures. European Central Bank's governor Mario Draghi and Bank of Japan's governor Haruhiko Kuroda are also attending the conference.
Chinese shares erased early losses to end firmly in positive territory, led by gains in banking and pharmaceutical stocks. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index added 0.46% to finish at 2,240.81.
Hong Kong'sHang Seng index rose 0.47% to 25,112.23, tracking strong leads from the US and European markets overnight. Li & Fung shares tumbled 4.6% to a seven-week low. The company, whose customers include Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., reported a 9% decline in interim operating profit and warned that US and European retail sales are likely to remain challenging in the second half.
Japanese shares snapped a nine-session winning streak, although losses remained capped in the wake of solid US economic data pointing to a strengthening economy. The benchmark Nikkei average reversed early gains to close down 0.30% at 15,539.19, while the broader Topix index dropped 0.4%. Exporter shares closed broadly lower, with Mazda Motor, Fanuc, Hitachi, Kyocera, Nikon, Toyota Motor, Sharp Corp and Panasonic falling between 0.5% and 1.4%.
Asahi Group Holdings rose 0.9%, Dai-ichi Life Insurance added 1.3%, Bridgestone Corp gained 1.4% and Mitsui Mining & Smelting rallied 2.5%. GungHo Online Entertainment Inc. rose 1.4% on a report its parent, SoftBank Corp, is mulling buying the unit's stake in a Finnish online game developer. SoftBank shares ended little changed with a positive bias.
Australian shares extended gains for a seventh consecutive session, with energy stocks pacing the gainers following solid earnings from Santos. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index inched up 0.1% to 5,645.6. Santos jumped 3.9% to its highest level since November 2013. The oil & gas producer rewarded shareholders with a 33% dividend hike despite suffering a 24% slide in first-half profit. Woodside Petroleum inched up marginally, Oil Search edged up 0.1% and Origin Energy advanced 0.4%.
Banks NAB, Commonwealth and ANZ rose between 0.3% and 0.8%, while miners Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group fell between 0.3% and 1.3%. Iluka Resources rallied 3.4% despite the mineral sands miner reporting a 66% decline in first-half net profit. Recycling giant Sims Metal Management slipped 0.2% after reporting a full-year loss of AUD89 million. Crown Resorts gained 1.3%. The casino operator struck a deal with the Victorian Coalition government to extend the expiry data of its Melbourne casino license from 2033 to 2050.
South Korea's Kospi average rose 0.61% to 2,056.70 on bargain hunting after tumbling 1.4% yesterday to end below the 2,050 level for the first time in 10 days. Hyundai Motor rose 0.2% as its workers prepared to launch a limited strike to press their demands for wage hikes. SK Telecom, which has been slapped with a sales ban for a week for violating subsidy rules, reversed early losses to close up 0.4%.
New Zealand shares posted modest gains, extending gains for the fourth day, as corporate earnings results released thus far largely met expectations, easing investor concerns over stock market valuations. The benchmark NZX-50 index rose 0.27% to 5,167. Pay-TV company Sky Network Television rallied 3.2% as it posted a better than expected 21% gain in annual profit on the back of a rise in revenue and lower expenses.
Insurer Tower climbed 4.8% to a 52-week high after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand reduced the minimum solvency margin that the company has to maintain as it progresses through its Canterbury earthquake claims. Spark New Zealand, formerly Telecom Corp, dropped 1.7% despite the company almost doubling its annual net profit.
Elsewhere, India's Sensex was moving up 0.4%, Singapore's Straits Times was gaining 0.2% and the Taiwan Weighted average climbed 1.4%, while the markets in Indonesia and Malaysia were slightly subdued. Taiwan's unemployment rate dropped a seasonally adjusted 3.95% in July, falling for the fourth straight month, from 3.97% in June, official data showed.
US stocks gained ground overnight, with the S&P 500 logging its fourth straight daily gain to close at a record high, as a flurry of economic reports on jobless claims, existing home sales and regional manufacturing activity topped forecasts. The Dow rose 0.4%, the tech-heavy Nasdaq edged up 0.1% and the S&P 500 advanced 0.3%.