Asian Stocks Follow Wall St Higher With China, Korea Closed | Business News

By JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer

BEIJING (AP) — Stock prices in Tokyo and Sydney followed Wall Street higher Wednesday while China, South Korea and Southeast Asian markets were closed for the Lunar New Year.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index gained 0.7% on Tuesday, boosted by gains for energy and tech stocks in a late burst of buying.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 1.6% to 27,497.60 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 added 1.2% to 7,089.90.

New Zealand and Jakarta also gained.

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New Zealand on Wednesday reported a record-low unemployment rate of 3.2%. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said it was an “extremely positive” result and evidence that businesses were continuing to hire people despite pandemic setbacks.

But political opponents claimed the real rate was about double the headline figure, which they said was was skewed because it didn’t count people who weren’t actively seeking work. The Statistics New Zealand figure was seasonally adjusted for the quarter ending December and was the lowest since current record-keeping began in 1986.

U.S. stocks are coming off their worst month since early in the pandemic nearly two years ago.

Investors are trying to figure out how the economy and corporate profits will be affected by upcoming Federal Reserve rate hikes, intended to cool inflation that has surged to a four-decade high.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose to 4,546.54. It is 5.2% below the Jan. 3 all-time high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.8% to 35,405.24. The Nasdaq composite added 0.7% to 14,346.

Exxon Mobil rose 6.4% after the company reported strong fourth quarter profit. Hewlett Packard Enterprise rose 2.9%.

The virus pandemic is still a lingering threat and each new variant could bring a surge of cases that threatens businesses and consumer activity.

Fed officials said in mid-December plans to wind down bond purchases and other stimulus that is boosting prices would be accelerated to cool inflation.

Consumers have kept spending despite price rises, but forecasters retail purchases might weaken and crimp economic growth.

Investors expect the Fed to hike rates at least four times this year, starting in March.

On Friday, the Labor Department reports U.S. employment for January.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude gained 13 cents to $88.33 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 5 cents on Tuesday to $88.20. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, added 18 cents to $89.34 per barrel in London. It fell 10 cents the previous session to $89.16.

The dollar edged up to 114.73 yen from Tuesday’s 114.71 yen. The euro rose to $1.1277 from $1.1254.

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