Asian stock markets boosted by ECB stimulus plan, shrug off weak China manufacturing

EnergyAssociated Press

Asian stocks zoomed higher Friday, boosted by the European Central Bank's stimulus announcement, a long awaited move that also set off gains in Europe and on Wall Street.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.1 percent to close at 17,511.75 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.1 percent to 24,786.08. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.8 percent to 1,936.09. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.5 percent to 5,501.80. Markets in Taiwan, India and Southeast Asia also rose.

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EUROPE FACTOR: Europe's ailing economy will get a major dose of stimulus from the European Central Bank's bond buying program designed to make loans and exports cheaper so companies can hire and expand. Starting in March, the ECB will buy 60 billion euros of government and corporate bonds each month at least through September 2016. The 1.1 trillion euro program was an emphatic signal of the ECB's willingness to do all it can to rejuvenate the economy shared by the 19-nation euro currency alliance.

THE QUOTE: "The European Central Bank has set the ticker boards alight across the globe with investors responding favorably to another central bank deploying more stimulus," IG strategist Stan Shamu said in a market commentary. "The next key event for markets will be the Greek elections which are set to take place this weekend. Polls continue to show Syriza in the lead but markets seem unfazed at the moment."

CHINA WORRIES: One dampener to the global growth optimism came from China. An HSBC report Friday said China's manufacturing shrank for a second month in January, largely because of weak demand. Earlier in the week, official Chinese data showed the world's second-biggest economy expanded 7.4 percent last year, the slowest pace since 1990.

WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 index jumped 31.03 points, or 1.5 percent, to close Thursday at 2,063.15. That nudged it into positive territory for the year, up 0.2 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 259.70 points, or 1.5 percent, to 17,813.98 while the Nasdaq climbed 82.98 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,750.40.

OIL PRICES: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 80 cents to $47.11 a barrel in a kneejerk reaction to news that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah died. Analysts say the king's death is unlikely to change Saudi's high oil production levels, a key factor in the collapse in oil prices in the past six months. On Thursday, the contract fell $1.47 to close at $46.31 a barrel in New York. Brent crude was up 88 cents to $49.40 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was little changed at 118.65 yen from 118.56 yen the previous day. The euro steadied after falling on the ECB announcement to its lowest since September 2003. It was down slightly at $1.1344 from $1.1356.


Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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