By ELAINE KURTENBACH, AP Business Writer
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares were modestly higher Thursday after stocks advanced on Wall Street with encouraging reports about the potential impact of the omicron variant of coronavirus and stronger U.S. economic data.
Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.3% to 28,658.57. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng edged 0.1% higher to 23,132.20. The Shanghai Composite index also rose 0.1% to 3,627.19. South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.3% to 2,993.58, while the A&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.4% to 7,391.60.
Shares also rose in Taiwan and Thailand.
Major indexes are still on track for a Christmas week gain, with trading thinning as the holidays approach. Many world markets will be closed Friday in observance of Christmas.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 1% to 4,696.56, the Nasdaq rose 1.2% to 15,521.89 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7% to 35,753.89. The Russell 2000, a measure of small-company stocks, rose 0.9% to 2,221.90.
Technology companies and a mix of retailers led the gains. Major indexes are still on track for a Christmas week gain, with trading thinning as the holidays approach. Many world markets will be closed Friday in observance of Christmas.
The latest surge in coronavirus cases because of the omicron variant has been hanging over markets, along with concerns about rising inflation and its impact on economic growth.
The Commerce Department on Wednesday said the U.S. economy grew at a 2.3% rate in the third quarter, slightly better than previously thought. But prospects for a solid rebound going forward are being clouded by the rapid spread of the latest variant of the coronavirus.
Uncertainty over the latest variant’s impact on the economy is likely to cause more stock market swings.
Governments in Asia and Europe have tightened travel controls or pushed back plans to relax curbs already in place.
Outbreaks of virus have intensified in South Korea, China and Australia and cases of the omicron variant have been expanding in other parts of Asia that had largely brought infections under control.
Investors have also been busy shifting money between sectors as the close of the year approaches and they prepare for higher interest rates in 2022. The Federal Reserve has said it will hasten the process of cutting its bond purchases that have helped maintain low interest rates and that opens the door to rate increases from the central bank in 2022.
Bond yields edged mostly lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.45% from 1.48% late Tuesday.
In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 19 cents to $72.95 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped 2.3% on Wednesday. Brent crude, the basis for pricing international crude, picked up 14 cents to $75.42 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar rose to 114.14 Japanese yen from 114.09 yen late Wednesday. The euro was at $1.1340, up from $1.1329.
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