ASIA MARKETS: Nikkei Soars On Its First Trading Day Of 2018, Leading Asian Market Gains

Japanese index up 2.5%; Australia, Singapore, Malaysia hit multi-year highs

Asian equities continued to strengthen Thursday, with Japanese stocks surging on their first trading day of 2018 after U.S. indexes rose to fresh records overnight.

The Nikkei Stock Average finished morning trading 2.5% higher, led by the tech sector as the Nasdaq Composite extended gains overnight after closing above 7,000 for the first time. Semiconductor company Tokyo Electron (8035.TO) climbed 5% and Sony (6758.TO) gained 3%.

Minutes of the Federal Reserve's December policy meeting sent the U.S. dollar higher. The minutes showed general commitment to raising interest rates further in 2018, said Marvin Loh, senior global market strategist at BNY Mellon.

The WSJ Dollar Index rose 0.1% in Asian trading, after snapping its longest losing streak in four years on Wednesday.

Taiwan's tech-heavy Taiex opened 0.4% higher after hitting a fresh five-week high on Wednesday, as the sector continues to recover from the sharp pullback in November and December. But Korea's Kospi , which started 0.6% higher, saw those gains quickly fade. The index was recently down 0.3% as index heavyweight Samsung (005930.SE) shed 0.5%.

Commodities continued to bolster Australia's benchmark stock index, after crude futures rose to three-year highs on Wednesday. The S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.1%, after rising as much as 0.5% to a fresh 10-year high in early trade.

The benchmark stock indexes in Singapore and Malaysia hit 2 1/2 -year highs, with the Straits Times Index rising 0.2% and the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI gaining 0.4%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 03, 2018 22:35 ET (03:35 GMT)