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Asian markets rally on healthy US data

People walk past an electronic display of the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong on Thursday. --  AFP
People walk past an electronic display of the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong on Thursday. -- AFP

HONG KONG: Asian markets on Thursday tracked a Wall Street rally fuelled by healthy economic and earnings data, while there was some relief that Nancy Pelosi's Taiwan trip did not elicit a harsher response from China despite grave warnings from Beijing.

Oil managed to clock up some gains following another sell-off that came on the back of fresh signs of weakening demand in the United States, which came as major producers announced an increase in output, albeit a small one.

New York's three main indexes surged after a report on the crucial US services sector showed surprise improvement, soothing worries about a possible recession in the world's top economy.

That came as several companies -- including Electronic Arts, Starbucks and Moderna -- posted strong earnings, extending a broadly positive reporting season in the face of surging inflation and rising interest rates.

All eyes are now on the release of US jobs data on Friday, which will provide the latest snapshot of the economy and could help guide the Federal Reserve in its debate on monetary policy.

Markets have swung this week after a number of Fed officials lined up to suggest there were still some big rate hikes likely and talk of cuts next year might be overdone.

That came after comments last week from bank chief Jerome Powell indicated that the policy board could start easing up on its tightening campaign.

"Following last week's Fed meeting that opened up the possibility of a slower hiking pace, markets are still running 'risk-on' despite the recent push back from Fed officials," said SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes.

"But for stock investors, lower oil prices are a pleasure to behold as not only did the US 10-year yields drop but sliding oil prices also downshifted inflation expectations, supporting that slower hiking pace thesis."

Both main oil contracts edged up on Thursday, a day after prices tumbled to a six-month low as a spike in US inventories showed demand waning, while figures showed Americans driving less than summer 2022 when travel was smashed by Covid-19.

Crude has now given up all the gains seen in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, though the 100,000 barrel output increase by OPEC+ was brushed off by investors as too little to make an impact.

Hong Kong led gains, adding more than two per cent, while there were also advances in Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Jakarta and Wellington.

However, Taipei fell again on worries that the Chinese manoeuvres would hit shipping lanes and flights into Taiwan.

Singapore and Manila also dipped. -- AFP

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