Asia report: Markets close higher, RBA indicates ongoing support

Markets in Asia finished in positive territory on Tuesday, with the Hong Kong bourse jumping after returning from a holiday, as investors digested the latest minutes from Australia’s central bank.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was ahead 1.28% at 30,467.75, as the yen strengthened 0.11% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 105.26.

Among the benchmark’s major components, robotics specialist Fanuc was flat, while Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing rose 3.06% and technology giant SoftBank Group jumped 4.15%.

The broader Topix index was 0.57% firmer by the end of trading in Tokyo, settling at 1,965.08.

Traders in mainland China were still on holiday, celebrating the Lunar New Year.

South Korea’s Kospi was ahead 0.52% at 3,163.25, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong returned from its Lunar New Year holiday, jumping 1.9% to 30,746.66.

Cinema plays were among the big winners in the special administrative region, with Alibaba Pictures rocketing 34.58% and Imax China up 31.14%.

It came after box office receipts reached a record in China last week, as millions across the country started their annual extended holiday.

The blue-chip technology stocks were higher in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics up 0.83% and SK Hynix ahead 0.38%.

Oil prices were lower as the region went to bed, with Brent crude last down 0.36% at $63.07 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate losing 0.6% to $59.78.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.7% at 6,917.30, with electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi rising 3.1% after it reported increased profits and an interim dividend double that paid at the end of the last financial year.

The latest minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia showed members of the central bank believing that “very significant” support would be needed for “some time”.

“It would be some years before the Bank’s goals for inflation and unemployment were achieved,” the minutes of the RBA’s February meeting read.

As a result, they said it would be “premature” to consider ending the bank’s current monetary stimulus.

“The RBA’s minutes today made clear that rates are on hold for years and years, and quantitative easing is not going to end soon,” noted analysts at Rabobank.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 rose 0.8% to 12,610.72, with two of the country’s energy generator-retailers leading the gains.

Mercury NZ ended the session up 3.1% in Wellington, and Meridian Energy was 2.8% firmer, after both fell in the previous session.

Both of the down under dollars were stronger on the greenback, with the Aussie last ahead 0.18% to AUD 1.2829, and the Kiwi advancing 0.5% at NZD 1.3769.

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