Asian stocks mixed on upbeat US data, rate hike expectations

SEOUL, (AP): Asian stocks were mixed Thursday as investors took profit amid expectations that the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates more aggressively than expected following upbeat U.S. economic data.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.5 percent to 19,347.53 while South Korea’s Kospi edged down 0.1 percent to 2,081.84. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.5 percent to 24,116.40 and Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.4 percent to 3,227.27. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 inched up 0.1 percent to 5,816.30. Stocks in Taiwan and Indonesia were lower but in Singapore and the Philippines they were higher.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “After another good run on Wall Street, the attention turns to Asian markets to assess if the global rally can be sustained,” Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore, said in a daily commentary. “Asian markets could once again see some profit-taking in today’s session.”

US ECONOMY: On Wednesday, reports of stronger retail sales and inflation showed that the U.S. economy was stronger than expected. Consumer prices rose 2.5 percent in January from a year earlier, the highest rate since March 2012. Inflation at the consumer level was the highest in years. The data give the Federal Reserve more encouragement to raise interest rates, and economists said the possibility is increasing that it may happen at the central bank’s next meeting in March.
SAMSUNG: Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong attended a court hearing in a bid to avoid his arrest for a second time. South Korean prosecutors investigating a massive corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye suspect that the Samsung heir bribed the president and her friend to win government favors, an allegation that Samsung denies. Investors weren’t immediately concerned by the possible arrest. Shares of Samsung Electronics rose 0.8 percent to 1,901,000 won in Seoul.

WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 11.67 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,349.25. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 107.45 points, or 0.5 percent, to 20,611.86. The Nasdaq composite rose 36.87, or 0.6 percent, to 5,819.44.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 113.95 yen from 114.02 while the euro weakened to $1.0610 from $1.0615.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 8 cents to $53.03 per barrel. The contract finished 9 cents lower at $53.11 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, was down 9 cents at $55.66 a barrel in London.

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