TOKYO — Shares are mostly higher in Asia following a broad rally that lifted U.S. stocks to a milestone-shattering finish. Investors appeared to shrug off the latest launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.4 per cent to 22,572.11, while South Korea’s Kospi was almost unchanged at 2,513.38. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 added 0.7 per cent to 6,023.30. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 0.3 per cent to 29,600.00, but the Shanghai Composite added 0.1 per cent to 3,335.92. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.
WALL STREET: Banks led gains, along with industrial stocks, retailers and health care companies. Investors were encouraged by news that a Senate committee cleared the way for a tax reform bill to go before the full Senate. Financial stocks also got a boost from Federal Reserve chair nominee Jerome Powell, who told another Senate committee that the Fed would consider easing up on bank regulations. The S&P 500 index rose 1 per cent to 2,627.04. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 1.1 per cent to 23,836.71 and the Nasdaq composite added 0.5 per cent to 6,912.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 1.5 per cent, to 1,536.43. Gainers outnumbered decliners more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange.
NORTH KOREA MISSILE: North Korea on Wednesday ended its longest pause in missile tests this year with what appeared to be its most powerful version yet of an intercontinental ballistic missile meant to target the United States. North Korea’s 20th launch of a ballistic missile this year adds to fears that the North will soon have a military arsenal that can viably target the U.S. mainland. But it barely registered in regional markets.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “The positive turn in U.S. equity markets overnight is expected to exert a strong influence upon Asian bourses today, underpinned by the development in the Senate, which is a step forward in the U.S. tax overhaul journey,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. “The stabilization of the Chinese market on Tuesday and the relatively benign reaction toward North Korea’s latest missile test pose little threat to the uptrend this morning.”
U.S. DATA BOOST: Investors also got a double dose of encouraging data on the U.S. economy when the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index rose this month to its highest level since November 2000. Economic growth clocked at a healthy 3 per cent annual pace in the third quarter, and the unemployment rate has fallen to a 17-year low of 4.1 per cent. A separate index showed U.S. home prices rose at the fastest pace in more than three years in September.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gave up 30 cents to $57.69 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It dropped 12 cents to settle at $57.99 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 35 cents to $62.89 per barrel. It declined 23 cents to close at $63.61 in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.60 Japanese yen from 111.46 yen on Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.1845 from $1.1839.
AP Business Writer Alex Veiga in Los Angeles contributed to this story.