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Asian stocks rally on hopes of delayed US rate hike

Asian stocks marched higher on Thursday, with beaten-down commodity plays stabilizing after weak U.S. data overnight heightened expectations that the Federal Reserve will hold off raising interest rates.

"Asia is loving the bad U.S. economic data. The lower U.S. dollar was taken as a boon for the region as it increased the relative value of commodity exports and lowered repayments on USD-denominated bonds for corporates in the region. With many Asian currencies and equity markets heavily influenced by commodity markets, this also saw the energy and materials sectors performing strongly across the region," IG's market analyst Angus Nicholson wrote in a note.

Wall Street finished in the red overnight, as investors digested mixed results from the banking sector as well as the release of lower-than-expected sales forecasts for fiscal 2016 by Wal-Mart.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 1 percent, ending below the psychologically key level of 17,000 for the first time since October 7, on the back of declines in Wal-Mart and Boeing. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite ended 0.5 and 0.3 percent lower respectively.

China markets positive

Share markets in China rose across the board to recover Wednesday's losses, with the Shanghai Composite closing up 2.3 percent.

But small-caps were the outperformers; the Shenzhen Composite rose 3 percent, while the start-up ChiNext board surged nearly 4 percent.

Anyuan Coal Industry rose by the daily maximum allowable of 10 percent, lifted by a disclosure in the miner's quarterly report that China's state investment firm and margin lender had become its major shareholders.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index leaped nearly 2 percent, with banks, securities and gaming shares attracting hefty buy orders.

China Southern Airlines soared 2.6 percent in Hong Kong, getting a lift from an announcement that earnings for the first nine...