JP Morgan posted forecast-beating first-quarter earnings and said the US economy was on a solid footing
Hong Kong - Arab Today
Asian stock markets rallied for a second straight session Thursday, tracking gains in New York where traders cheered surprisingly upbeat earnings from Wall Street titan JPMorgan Chase.
The renewed confidence saw investors shift out of the safe investment yen, which in turn helped Japan's Nikkei soar more than three percent.
A shock decision by Singapore to loosen monetary policy sent the island-state's dollar tumbling, dragging other emerging market currencies.
After Wednesday's rally fuelled by rising oil prices and strong Chinese trade data, regional investors returned to trading floors to news that JP Morgan had posted forecast-beating first-quarter earnings.
The banking giant also said the US economy, the world's biggest, was on a solid footing and dismissed the prospect it would go into recession this year. The news provided strong support for the financial sector, with all three main New York indexes ending more than one percent higher.
"The fact that investor appetite for the heavily weighted banking sector looks to be returning could help see an even stronger day," Angus Nicholson, a markets analyst in Melbourne at IG Ltd., told clients.
Hong Kong was up 0.9 percent while Shanghai ended 0.5 percent higher. Sydney climbed 1.3 percent and Seoul shot up 1.8 percent.
Tokyo led the gains, with the Nikkei flying 3.2 percent. Japanese exporters were the big beneficiaries of another drop in the yen against the dollar. But in early European trade London dipped 0.3 percent, Frankfurt added 0.2 percent and Paris was down 0.1 percent.
- Singapore eases -
The greenback bought 109.44 yen, against 109.33 yen in New York. The US unit is also well up from the levels below 108 yen seen earlier in the week when worries about the state of the global economy sent investors racing to safety.
Singapore's dollar plunged 1.1 percent after the Monetary Authority of Singapore eased policy as it looks to shore up the economy.
Nader Naeimi, head of dynamic markets at AMP Capital Investors said the move has given traders some hope that central banks will continue to unveil measures to kickstart growth.
"Central banks will continue to ease policy," he told Bloomberg News. "The weakness that we’ve seen in the US dollar and the fact that the Fed is going slowly now is allowing other countries to come out and ease. That is what we need."
However, the move sent other regional units into a tailspin with analysts saying it fuelled worries about Asia's developing economies and aggravated fears of a currency war, in which countries push down their units to gain an export advantage.
The South Korean won dived more than one percent, while Indonesia's rupiah was down 0.4 percent and the Indian rupee shed 0.3 percent. The Malaysian ringgit gave up 0.8 percent and Thai baht 0.4 percent.
Oil prices extended losses following a rise in US commercial crude stockpiles, while traders turned cautious ahead of a crunch producers' meeting.
A warning by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that the world remains oversupplied also dampened sentiment as key producer nations prepared to gather in Doha for Sunday's talks on freezing output.
West Texas Intermediate dived 1.9 percent and Brent dropped 1.7 percent.
Traders will closely watch Sunday's talks after prices slumped by about three quarters to below $30 between mid-2014 and February this year on the back of the global supply glut and overproduction.
While they have edged back up recently, some analysts warn the oil market is likely to remain volatile for some time.
However, on Thursday the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the global oil glut is set to ease by year's end, but warned that any potential production freeze agreed in Doha would only have a "limited" impact on supplies.
- Key figures around 0810 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 3.2 percent at 16,011.05 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,082.36 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.9 percent at 21,337.81 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 6,342.93
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1245 from $1.1276 on Wednesday
Dollar/yen: UP at 109.44 yen from 109.33 yen
New York - Dow: UP 1.1 percent at 17,908.28 (close)