Global stocks rally stretches to Asia as US hits new highs

Pedestrians walk in front of an electric quotation board flashing stock prices on the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo.
Pedestrians walk in front of an electric quotation board flashing stock prices on the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - The bulls are gaining momentum as the global equity rally stretches to Asia.

Tokyo shares jumped to the highest level since December 2015 on Thursday (March 2) while stocks from Australia to Hong Kong also climbed after US indexes set new records on signs growth is firming worldwide.

Japan's Topix jumped 1.2 per cent, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 1.2 per cent and Singapore's Straits Times Index added 0.5 per cent.

The Hang Seng pared gains to 0.3 per cent after briefly topping 24,000, while China shares traded in Hong Kong were up 0.4 per cent. The Kospi Index in Seoul rose 0.4 per cent and the Jakarta Composite Index jumped 1.1 per cent, the most this year.

The US dollar extended gains after Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard supported the case for an interest-rate hike "soon." Treasuries fell for a fourth straight day and gold retreated.

Brainard, who for months has played the role of lead dove at the Fed arguing to keep rates lower for longer, said in a speech at Harvard University "it will likely be appropriate soon to remove additional accommodation."

Investors are looking ahead to a speech by Fed chair Janet Yellen on Friday to reaffirm a view that interest rates are likely to go up this month. The odds for a Fed rate hike in two weeks swelled past 65 percent.

"The overwhelming feeling is positive," Karl Goody, a private wealth manager at Shaw and Partners Ltd. in Sydney, which oversees about A$11 billion, said by phone. "As long as Yellen keeps the same sort of stance, that's what investors want at the moment. There's a huge thirst and ultra-high demand from people with money trying to find a home. This is going to continue."

While Donald Trump provided few specifics in his address to Congress, he reiterated broad proposals for boosting spending and cutting taxes that reinforced views that his administration will seek pro-growth policies.

Meanwhile, data on Wednesday showed US manufacturing expanded last month at the fastest pace in three years and an acceleration in German inflation added to signs of momentum in Europe's largest economy.

Futures on the S&P 500 were flat after the index jumped 1.4 per cent on Wednesday. The Dow rallied above 21,000, capping a 35-day run between thousand-point milestones that matches the fastest run on record. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 1.5 per cent.

The yen fell 0.3 per cent to 114.08 per US dollar, after declining 0.9 per cent on Wednesday. The currency has lost 1.7 per cent this week.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index added 0.2 per cent, climbing for a fifth straight day, the longest winning streak since May.

Yields on 10-year Treasuries rose one basis point to 2.46 per cent, after climbing six basis points on Wednesday.

Gold slipped 0.1 per cent to US$1,247.92 an ounce. The metal was at the highest level in more than three months last Friday.

Oil retreated for a third day, dropping 0.2 per cent to US$53.72 a barrel.