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Asian shares gain as Ukraine fears recede

Asian shares rose on Tuesday (Aug 19) following a bounce on Wall Street as fears ebbed of a direct military clash between Russia and Ukraine and the focus turned to a keynote speech this week by the US Federal Reserve chief.

HONG KONG: Asian shares rose on Tuesday (Aug 19) following a bounce on Wall Street as fears ebbed of a direct military clash between Russia and Ukraine and the focus turned to a keynote speech this week by the US Federal Reserve chief.

Tokyo gained 0.83 per cent, or 127.19 points, to 15,449.79 and Seoul added 0.88 per cent, or 18.01 points, to 2,071.14. Sydney rose 0.66 per cent, or 36.7 points, to 5,623.8.

Global mining giant BHP posted a 23.2 per cent jump in annual net profit and said it would create a new independent company by spinning off non-core assets to reduce costs and boost productivity. Shares in BHP closed 1.35 perc ent higher ahead of the announcement.

Hong Kong climbed 0.67 per cent, or 167.49 points, to 25,122.95 and Shanghai ended up 0.26 per cent, or 5.86 points, at 2,245.33 The gains came after US stocks rebounded Monday from last week's Ukraine-linked setback, with the Dow surging and the Nasdaq reaching a 14-year high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 1.06 per cent at 16,838.74 while the broad-based S&P 500 added 0.85 per cent to 1,971.74. The Dow had led a sell-off Friday as news that Ukrainian artillery had destroyed part of a Russian military column spooked investors.

But Russia on Monday said that "certain progress" had been made during a marathon meeting in Berlin between the two countries' foreign ministers and their counterparts from Germany and France.

GREENBACK HOLDS STEADY

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite gained 0.97 per cent to 4,508.31 - its highest level since Mar 31, 2000, when the market was on the cusp of a nearly 4,000-point crash as the tech bubble burst.

In forex markets, the dollar was at ¥102.62 in afternoon Asian trade, up from ¥102.57 in New York late Monday and ¥102.32 in Tokyo earlier Monday. The greenback is expected to bounce in volatile forex trading this week, ahead of a speech on Friday by US Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen at the central bank's annual economic policy symposium. Investors will be looking for any hint of a change to the Fed's interest rate plans.

Last month, Yellen told Congress the Fed would hold its near-zero interest rate policy until the US economy strengthens, but may raise rates if the jobs market keeps improving. Later Tuesday, investors were looking to US inflation data for July to get a snapshot of the state of the world's number one economy.

The euro bought US$1.3351 (S$1.66) and ¥137.04 against US$1.3363 and ¥137.05 in US trade. In oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for September delivery rose 38 cents to US$96.79 while Brent crude for October was up 23 cents to US$101.83. Gold traded at US$1,300.62 an ounce at 8.43am GMT (4.43pm, Singapore time) compared to US$1,302.22 an ounce late Monday.

In other markets:

- Wellington rose 0.85 per cent, or 43.09 points, to 5,114.21. Air New Zealand was up 2.44 percent at NZ$2.095 and Fletcher Building gained 0.44 per cent to NZ$9.09.

- Taipei jumped 1.12 per cent, or 102.47 points, to 9,243.78. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.81 per cent higher at NT$124.0 while leading chip design house MediaTek gained 2.0 per cent to NT$510.0.

- Manila climbed 0.79 per cent, or 55.17 points, to 7,082.75. Top-traded Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. rose 0.43 per cent to 3,250 points while Ayala Land Inc gained 1.69 per cent to 33.15 pesos.

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