Asia-Pacific markets steady at six-year highs

Asia-Pacific markets are seeing modest gains on the final day of the week, after a listless session in the US.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.4 per cent, placing it on track to break a four-day losing streak, FTAdviser sister publication FastFT reports. It’s within a percentage point of the 2014 high reached last week.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 is up 0.3 per cent, following a 1.6 per cent gain on Thursday, placing the average at its highest since late January. It’s on track to climb 2.1 per cent this week, a fifth weekly gain.

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But Sydney’s stock market is retreating back towards two-month lows. The S&P/ASX 200 is down half a per cent, after seeing its best session of the year on Thursday, when it rose 1.6 per cent.

Overall, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index was taking a breather after hitting a six-year high on Thursday. It’s due to lock in a sixth weekly gain.

“Overnight market sentiment was fairly positive but weaker than that of previous day,” said Daniel Lee at Credit Agricole.

In the US, the S&P 500 inched forward by 0.1 per cent, after a regional look at manufacturing around Philadelphia beat forecasts, while new claims for jobless benefits fell.

The broader story keeping markets lofty is Wednesday’s statement from the US Federal Reserve, which committed to keeping interest rates low.

Down under, the financial sector weighed on shares, but help came from the commodities space.

Gold prices shot up 3.4 per cent overnight to a two-month high of $1,321.66 per ounce. The price of iron ore rose for a third straight day, moving up 0.4 per cent to $90.70 per metric tonne. Both provided relief for miners, with several gold companies see share gains of more than 4 per cent.